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Technological Literacy Across the Social Sciences - SSCI101

Finding missing information

Research is a process of inquiry and your investigation into a complex issue, compiling information from a wide variety of sources to develop your own answer to the question or solution to a problem.

You started with a general idea for a topic and are ready to narrow it down to a more focused research question. Throughout the research process, but especially now that you have decided what your focused research topic is, you can identify gaps in your own knowledge of the topic and in the research you've found.

If you're not sure what you are missing, here are some questions you can ask yourself to focus your topic: 

  • Who is impacted by your topic? Consider gender, age, profession, etc.
  • What time period (when) are you interested in? The present, the past, during an event, etc.
  • What location (where) are you interested in? This could be a specific place like RVCC, New York, or Brazil, or a general one like colleges or urban areas.
  • What aspects of your topic are you researching? Causes, effects, solutions, etc.

You could think of these as variables in your research - some may be independent varaiables chosen in advance (like location or population) while others are dependent variables--results or consequences of that selection (for example, the impact of an issue may be different in the suburbs than in the city, and may impact men differently than women).

Once you have identified what you are missing, continue to research those specific information needs, finding new sources and ideas that help you understand your topic and answer your research question. 

As we just discussed, scholarly articles have a narrow focus and can provide you with very specific information. How could you use a scholarly article?


Databases for narrowing your topic

Exploring a general topic so you know more about it will help you narrow your research question. These databases allow you to browse topics or issues and find a focus to your research.