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First-Year Research Guide

This guide provides resources on developing an inquiry question, finding background information, using the library catalog and databases, and developing a list of keyword terms

What is an inquiry question?

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(Photo credit: Nick Young, CC-BY-SA)

An inquiry question is the central idea of your paper. The question seeks to investigate a specific angle or aspect of your topic of interest (e.g., sustainability). For example: What types of sustainability programs are currently being introduced on college campuses?

Some of the qualities of a good inquiry question:

  • It's asked without bias. 
  • It does not have a simple answer, and often has multiple answers.
  • It has a clear focus.
  • The question is researchable.  
  • It's a topic that is interesting to you.

Use the worksheet below to guide you as you search for articles and books that relate to your inquiry question.

Examples of Bad Inquiry Questions

When was the United States Navy attacked at Pearl Harbor?

   There is specific answer to this question:  December 7, 1941. 

How is gender portrayed in the media? 

What about "gender" is being portrayed?

"Media" is too broad of a topic for an inquiry question.