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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


This guide provides quick and easy access to library resources for Rhetoric assignments as well as guidance on getting research and writing help.

Dissect Your Research Question: VIDEO

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Alternatively, read the instructions and view the sample completed worksheet below. 

Dissect Your Research Question Instructions

Dissecting your research question helps you to identify the keywords or concepts to use when you search for information from articles and books. To dissect your research question:

  1. Print or download a copy of the "Dissect Your Research Question" handout linked in the box below. You can also view a completed sample worksheet.  
  2. Complete Step 1 on the worksheet: 
    1. Write down your initial research question. 
    2. Underline the keywords in your research question. (You should have two or three.) These are the words in your research question that are most important. They can be a single word or a short (2-3 word) phrase. 
  3. Complete Step 2 on the worksheet: 
    1. Write your keywords in the three boxes in the column labeled "Main Keyword", putting each keyword in a separate box.
    2. Brainstorm synonyms, narrower keywords, and broader keywords and write your alternative keywords in the boxes that correspond with the associated main keyword.
  4. Complete Steps 3 & 4
    1. Search a database by selecting a keyword from each row and typing each keyword in its own search box.
    2. Keep track of new keywords you discover as you try different keyword combinations

Dissect Your Research Question Worksheets