MCOM 191 Research

A platform for the Research section of MCOM 191

Research Questions and Preliminary Outlines


In this module you will learn how to develop an effective research question and generate a preliminary outline to serve as a roadmap or blueprint for your research. Developing research questions is a challenging task, so please go through the instruction materials carefully. When you submit assignment #2, I might need to return it so that you can do more work to get your question into proper shape.

Developing a Working Knowledge


At the beginning of a research project, you need a working knowledge of your topic.  This is a small amount of knowledge that explains what the topic is about. You can find a working knowledge through Wikipedia (but be careful with it, because it may not always be reliable), research starters in Library OneSearch, and reference sources (dictionaries, encyclopedias) identified through our research guides. The following video identifies these:

Creating Research Questions from Research Problems

The following presentations plus your textbook reading will orientate you to the nature of research questions and ways to develop them.  This is not easy, since many students see a research project as a compilation of information you have read rather than as a problem-solving exercise. View the following, and keep the assignment questions in front of you so you can answer them well. Open each presentation to full screen. Navigation under the image.


More on research questions


Since research questions are difficult, I thought I'd provide a checklist of things to avoid if you want a good question:

 undefined  Is your question something you can look up somewhere? (Research questions are problems that require analysis; you can't just look up an answer).

 undefined  Do you have just one question?

 undefined  Does your question have vague language (what does __ mean for __; what are the implications of; what should we think of __)?

 undefined  Is your question narrow enough to require good analysis, yet not so narrow that you won't find books and articles on it?

 undefined  Is your question simple and clear? Can you visualize the goal of your question?

Preliminary Outlines

Why try to create an outline so early? Simply because a good preliminary outline can serve as a roadmap or blueprint to:

1. Tell you what aspects of the issue you need to research

2. Help you identify options (several points of view in the research; several ways of addressing the problem)

3. Give you more of a sense of control over your project, thus limiting anxiety and building confidence

View the following presentation on creating preliminary outlines from research questions. Note especially that your should construct your outline from actual words in your research question whenever possible:

Assignment Two

Download the template for Assignment Two using the link to the Word doc below.


A passing grade requires that student responses show:

1. Clear answers to questions

2. A working knowledge summary that covers the topic and stays with factual information only.

3. Suggested research questions that are problem-based, well-focused, and clear.

4. Choice of the best question to serve as your research question.