Developing a Research Question/Problem


Generating ideas for an essay can feel challenging. Even when a list of potential topics is provided, you will need to consider what aspects or point of view you will develop.

At this early stage, you want to develop a question or problem to guide your research, reading and, writing.


It is unnecessary to generate a definitive thesis statement or argument at this point, as your ideas will evolve.


A useful strategy is to develop some driving questions (or problems) to guide your research. Begin by considering course themes or issues relevant to your assignment. Examine these and then pay attention to questions that come to mind.

Driving Questions

Example 1:

In using the topics of poverty and childhood obesity, here are a few driving questions to consider:

  • Are city-run programs successful at reducing the risk of childhood obesity?
  • What is being done at the federal, provincial or city level to reduce childhood obesity?
  • Why is poverty and childhood obesity linked?

Example 2:

In using the topics of local sustainability and municipal rainwater collection, here are a few driving questions to consider:

  • What barriers exist for creating a sustainable rainwater program at the city level?
  • What are the cost-benefits associated with a rainwater program?
  • What type of partnership is needed – city government, non-profit organizations…?