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Police Science: Start Your Research

Tips for Developing Your Topic

  1. Choose an Interesting and Workable Topic:
    This is your chance to go on an intellectual adventure!  Choose a topic that matters to you.  Also, make sure your topic isn't too obscure.  When doing research, you'll be looking for outside sources that address your topic, so make sure there's published information about it.

  2. Ask Questions to Refine Your Topic: 5Ws & 1H
    Asking questions about your topic can help to focus it.  The 5Ws & 1H are: Who, What, When, Where, Why and How.  Sometimes, we begin research with a vague notion of what we plan to write about. However, asking questions can help you to transform a fuzzy idea into something more concrete.

  3. Find Background Information to Refine Your Topic:
    Another way of focusing your topic is to find background information on it. Reference sources, such as encyclopedias, provide information about key concepts, events, and people associated with your topic.

  4. Create a Preliminary Research Question (or Statement):
    At some point during the research process, you'll be able to articulate questions or statements to guide your research.  You can pull keywords from a research question or statement and plug them into library databases.

  5. Determine Key Concepts & Find Sources:
    Following steps 2-4 will help you to identify the words or phrases that represent main concepts for your topic.  By plugging two or three keywords into a library database, you'll be able to find articles and books related to your topic.

  6. Remember that Research is Not a Linear Process:
    You may find yourself revisiting earlier steps in the research process after some preliminary research.  For example, you may need to refine/revise your initial research question.  This is a sign that you're progressing through the research process, not a setback.

Learn More About Your Campus Library

Get Research Help

Find a companion research guide for the course you're taking. Learn research tips and tricks!

Learn how to find information on your topic in library databases, as well as time-saving research tips.

Get expert research help 24/7 using our online chat service.

Contact a Germanna Librarian to schedule a time to chat over the phone or  in-person.  You can also e-mail your question.

The phone numbers for the circulation desk at each Germanna Library are listed here.

Assignment Needs

Before selecting a topic or starting your research, make sure you understand your assignment and its requirements. Consider the following:

How many pages are required?

Do you need current or historical information?

Do you need scholarly or popular information? How many resources are needed?

Due Date:
When is the paper due? Get started early - research is time consuming!

Good Research Questions

Good research questions have the following characterics:

Arise from issues raised in the literature or in practice.

Choose a question that you will have sufficient time and resources to appropriately discuss.

Don't just use questions that have already been addressed by others.

Clear & Simple:
Muddled or complex questions are likely to generate muddled or complex data.