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FYWS Orange is Not the New Black: Topic/Research Question

Choose a Topic

Formulating a Research Question:

The basic formula for research question is: How does x relate/impact/cause y?

For a good research question you’ll usually have one more component, something to make it a bit more specific, like a place, time, group of people, etc. 

Find ideas in:

  • Your syllabus
  • Your text
  • Class discussion
  • Your life
  • Current events

Subject Headings to Try When Searching

After searching with keywords, look through your results to find official subject terms to help narrow your results further. 
NOTE: When using an EBSCO database to search subject terms, change the "Select a Field" option to indicate "SU Subject Terms."  Place quotation marks around your subject terms as indicated above.

  • CORRECTIONS (Criminal justice administration)
  • CRIMINAL justice administration
  • CRIMINALS -- Rehabilitation
  • PRISON educators
  • PRISON libraries
  • PRISON reform
  • PRISONS -- Missions & charities
  • PRISONERS -- Education
  • PRISONERS -- Services for
  • RECIDIVISM -- Government policy
  • RECIDIVISM rates -- Research
  • RECIDIVISM -- Research
  • RESTORATIVE justice
  • SOCIAL change
  • TREATMENT of prisoners

Find Background Information

Background information helps you: 

  • Start thinking about your topic
  • See the big picture
  • Identify major issues
  • Discover something that interests you

Use quality, professionally produced sources to familiarize yourself with the topic (not just Google and Wikipedia).

Try some of these:

Narrow Your Topic

Consider these questions:

Ask yourself open-ended questions to focus your topic. You don't have to answer all of the questions. Some might not apply or be helpful.

Use the five w's: 
  • Who: demographic focus (gender, age, ethnicity, socioeconomic status
  • What: aspects and impacts of the topic (sociological, psychological, economic)     
  • Where: geographic location
  • When: either present day or a particular time period in the past
  • Why/How/So What!: importance, significance (societal, individual)