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*Research and Writing: Integrated Skills & Strategies*

Welcome! This guide will help you develop your research and writing skills by providing foundational knowledge of the iterative research and writing process as well as manageable steps for breaking down and navigating college research projects.

Still Struggling?

Conversing with someone else about your research and writing process can be incredibly helpful.  Contact staff at McKillop Library or the Writing Center using the links below.

Developing a Research Question

After you have chosen a topic and done some brainstorming, it is time to develop your research question.  Although you will not include your research question in your paper, this is nonetheless a critical step because your thesis statement, one of the most important pieces of your research project, will answer your research question.  Your research question will also help you determine what is important to include in your project and when you have finished it.  

As you create your research question, remember issues that you identified in your brainstorming, concept mapping, and/or prewriting.  What specific aspect of your topic appealed to you?  What unique question do you want to seek answers to?

One of the most important things to keep in mind as you are creating your research question is that your question should be open-ended: the question should not be able to be answered with a simple "yes" or "no."  You want to create a question that requires exploration and analysis: one that will require you to use a variety of credible sources to answer.  See the chart below for examples of open and close-ended questions.

Comparison chart for close and open-ended questions

There are many types of research questions, so spend some time brainstorming how you want to approach your topic.  You want your question to be innovative: something that will grab your readers' attention and make them think about your topic in a new way.  For example, let's say you want to examine the practice of tattooing in the United States for your research project.  Below are three types of research questions that provided examples for this research topic.

  • Descriptive questions: Questions that seek to describe or explain something.  Typically start with phrases like "What are?", "What is?", "How...?", and "What amount?".
    • Example: How does getting a tattoo impact American millennials as they enter the work force?
  • Comparison questions: Questions that explore the relationship between variables.  They focus on the differences and similarities between these variables.
    • Example: How does the perception of tattooed individuals in the twenty-first century compare to perceptions in the early-twentieth century?
  • Causal questions: Questions that examine whether one variable has impacted another.
    • Example: How have social changes impacted the prevalence of tattoos in America?


Components of a Thesis

The most important part of any writing assignment is the thesis statement. A thesis statement states the author’s purpose for writing or the point to be proven. The topic sentences of each succeeding body paragraph all connect the thesis statement.

  • When the essay is designed to inform the reader, the thesis explains the author’s purpose for writing and serves as the controlling idea or topic throughout the essay.
  • When the essay is designed to convince the reader, the thesis states the topic that will be explored and serves as the argument or central claim throughout the essay.

An effective thesis statement will...

An effective thesis statement is...


  1. State the subject of the writing prompt.
  2. Repeat the keywords of the prompt.
  3. Justify discussion and exploration of the topic: it won’t just present a statement of fact.
  4. Be arguable, especially if the thesis introduces a persuasive or analytical essay.


  1. One or two declarative sentences (no questions).
  2. Generally placed at the end of the introduction; however,  it can sometime be found at the end of the research or literature review section of more extensive papers. 
  3. Focused in its purpose or point of view.  
  4. A preview of the main points and topic sentences.

Thesis Revision Examples

Thesis statements guide the content, organization, and evidence that together build an effective paper. A thesis does not exist in isolation and should be threaded through the entirety of a paper. The creation of a powerful and cohesive thesis requires multiple revisions. To begin, your thesis may address the topic broadly; but through revision, the thesis should ultimately convey a critical, specific, and arguable perspective on the topic. The examples below model possible revisions to a broad, ineffective thesis.  

Ineffective thesis to be revised: Tattooing is very prevalent in the United States. 

Effective thesis revisions:

Say whyMany people decide to become tattooed because it allows them a permanent form of physical expression that positively promotes self-awareness and ownership of experiences.

Say why the reader should careAs the prevalence to tattooing increases with the millennial generation, the trend will negatively impact the perception of young professionals in the American business world and the United States' success within a global market. 

Say howBody art acceptance in American society has grown significantly in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, achieved through the unraveling of stigmatization and ostracizing of a once believed deviant behavior.

Make specific comparisons: While the practice of body modification once held many negative associations, the profession of tattooist has grown out of its underground beginnings to be considered a respectable position in the contemporary arts community. 

Make an evaluationThe prevalence of tattooing as a key element of youth culture in the United States demonstrates the lack of maturity and personal responsibility amongst millennials. 

Consider the consequencesAs the generations X, Y, and millennials enter advanced ages of life, there will be a significant regret about their choices in body modification and a rapid increase in tattoo removal. 

Apply previous or other knowledgeThe acceptance of body modification, like many other social practices and beliefs that are recognized in contemporary society, was furthered by the driving social reforms and movements of the mid-20th century, including women's rights, the civil rights movements, and political protest. 

Revise Your Thesis Statement

Give it a try! Use the worksheet attached to experiment with different versions of your own thesis. Remember, you can always revisit the wording. We will re-examine the thesis at the end of the process through reverse outlining.