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Literature Reviews

Define your research question

Define your research question

Defining your research question is the key to beginning, so while you may be clear on the area you want to study, chances are there are some nuances that you need to think through. 

Part of this process may require exploratory searching in databases so that you can see what's already been published on your topic. Even if it's a new area, it's likely something has already been published in at least an adjacent area of study. 

Some things to consider:

  • What is my central question or issue that the literature can help define?
  • What is already known about the topic?
  • Is the scope of the literature being reviewed wide or narrow enough?
  • Is there a conflict or debate in the literature?
  • What connections can be made between the texts being reviewed?
  • What sort of literature should be reviewed? Historical? Theoretical? Methodological? Quantitative? Qualitative?
  • What criteria should be used to evaluate the literature being reviewed?
  • How will reviewing the literature justify the topic I plan to investigate?


For more on the research question:

Video on Defining the Research Question

When you pick your topic, it's not set in stone. Picking and adjusting your topic is an integral part of the research process! This video is published under a Creative Commons 3.0 BY-NC-SA US license. (3 minutes)

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 Generic License.