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Writing 44.02 Science and Technology Writing & Presentation

Finding Background Information

Part of developing a topic is developing a basic knowledge that allows you to ask critical questions about a topic. This information is often broad, and can be found in books, encyclopaedias, and handbooks. As you explore background information for a topic, consider:

  • What are subtopics related to this broader topic?
  • What questions do I ask when I review this information?
  • What do I find interesting about this topic? What sparks my curiosity?

Developing a Research Question

When developing a research question for a project, ask as many "how" and "why" questions as you can think of but pick one. I find it hard at times to decide what question is big enough to be interesting but contained enough that I can answer it within the time allowed. It is important to consider scale when choosing a question - what is the end product and how long do I have to research the topic?

The clearer your topic is, the more likely you are to find the information you are looking for. Broad inquiries yield broad results, and this makes them harder to talk about in your written product.


Try to make your questions:

Clear & Concise - Does it indicate to the audience exactly what you are trying to answer and is it stated in the fewest words?

Complex - Can it be answered with yes or no? If so, it is not complex enough. Your question should require the synthesis of information from several sources. 

Focused and Arguable - Can it answered in the time given using format you have selected? Is it open to debate?