For many, if not most, research assignments, you need to do more than understand a topic. You need to have some central idea about it, a thesis that is supported by evidence. One way to do this is to reformulate your topic as a question. Chances are your question will change as your understanding of the topic deepens, but it should help guide your search to have a specific research question in mind.
For example, if you choose juvenile delinquency (a topic that can be researched), you might ask the following questions:
Once you complete your list, review your questions in order to choose a usable one that is neither too broad nor too narrow. In this case, the best research question is "c." Question "a" is too narrow, since it can be answered with a simple statistic. Question "b" is too broad; it implies that the researcher will cover many tactics for reducing juvenile delinquency that could be used throughout the country. Question "c," on the other hand, is focused enough to research in some depth.
(From the Writing Center at Empire State College)
You will have to spend some time mapping out the territory of a topic, sorting out what information is available and what different angles have been taken by others. This is often the most difficult part of the research process - and the most frustrating because you don't feel as if you're making much headway. Try these strategies to make the most of this part of the process: