Skip to Main Content

Undergraduate Research

Resources for course-based undergraduate research experiences

Start Here

Research is a non-linear process that starts with asking a question and going on a quest to find answers and further understand the topic of interest. 

Choosing a Topic

Your first step will be to choose a topic within the subject that you're interested in exploring. 

Watch the following video on how you can identify a good research topic: 


Key Takeaways

  • Make sure it is a topic that you can spend a great amount of time exploring
  • Consider the amount of time that you have to cover the topic and to do your research 
  • Is there data available and accessible for the topic?

Developing a Research Question

Now that you have decided on a topic, what question(s) do you want to ask? 

Consider using the following table to develop your research question: 


The topic that you chose in the previous step

Underlying problems

What are the issues within the topic that you're interested in investigating?

Narrow it down

Out of all the problems, what are you interested in tackling?

Research question

What question do you want to ask? Be specific

Social significance

Why is your question worth asking?


To clarify and refine your question, and ensure that it has all the necessary components of your research, you can use the following frameworks as appropriate to your topic: 

P Population/Problem Who and/or what is my question focused on?
I Intervention What intervention is being implemented?
C Comparison What intervention is this being compared to?
O Outcomes What do you hope to accomplish, improve or affect?
S Sample Who is the group of people you're looking at?
PI Phenomenon of Interest Instead of an intervention, what behaviour, decision or idea are you investigating?
D Design What method(s) are you using (e.g., interviews or surveys)?
E Evaluation What is the outcome being measured?
R Research type

Is your research qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods?

Alternatively for qualitative research questions, you can use the following self-test to clarify and refine your question:

  Is my question open-ended?
  Is there any vocabulary that may be too vague or jargon?
  If I am looking at a population, are they identified in my question?