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Government and Econ (GLS 218) : Getting Started

What Do You Want to Find Out?

Before you begin searching, identify your international or global problem or controversy, and come up with your research question

Problem: housing too broad

Problem: discriminatory housing practices

Research question: What are the main discriminatory housing practices used today? does not ask for a solution

Research question: What is the best way for the US to end discriminatory housing practices?


Controversy: low pay too broad

Controversy: raising the minimum wage

Research question: What is the minimum wage, and how does it effect the economy? does not ask for an answer to the controversy, is more than one question

Research question: Should the United States raise the federal minimum wage?

Scope of the Problem or Controversy

Is your problem or controversy (and thus question) the right size for the assignment? If it's too broad, you could write a book and never answer the question. If it's too narrow, you will have trouble finding resources and fulfilling the minimum word count.

too broad: housing 

(potentially) just right: discriminatory housing practices

too narrow: discriminatory housing practices in Gwinnett County, Georgia


too broad: low pay 

(potentially) just right: raising the minimum wage

too narrow: raising the minimum wage because too many single parents work multiple jobs


As you start your research, you may have to refine the scope of your problem.

Exploratory Questions vs. Research Questions

Your research question must ask for a solution to the international/global problem or an answer to the international/global controversy.

While first researching your topic, you may need to ask and answer exploratory questions. Exploratory questions are not research questions, however. 

Things Exploratory Questions Do Example Exploratory Question
ask for background information on a topic What does the government do to protect Americans’ jobs from being outsourced?
ask factual or procedural questions What are the steps to changing the federal minimum wage?
ask whether a problem exists or whether experts take a controversy seriously Should banks be allowed to use discriminatory and predatory practices?
ask for a description of the problem/controversy or how the problem/controversy came to be How did Myanmar become of one the world's poorest countries?

Research questions ask for a solution to the international/global problem or an answer to the international/global controversy:

What is the best way for the US government keep jobs in the automobile industry from being outsourced?

Should the United States lower the minimum wage? (controversy)

What is the best way for the federal government to prevent banks from using discriminatory lending practices?

What is the best way for the US to help Myanmar out of poverty?


Identify your keywords from your research question.


discriminatory lending

Think of synonyms. Not every author will use the same terms to write about your topic. Think of other terms that might be used (and look out for synonyms in your search results). 

Keywords and synonyms:

banks, financial institutions

lending, loans, financing 

Quick Search: Everything

Basic Library Research Handout

Evaluating Sources