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Academic Advising Graduate Certificate

This guide was created to support students seeking the Academic Advising Graduate Certificate. This guide was originally created by Dana Hettich.

Defining Your Topic & Forming a Research Question

Before jumping to resources via the UAB Libraries page or Google Scholar, you need a well-defined topic and guiding research question.

What are you interested in exploring?

Be sure to choose the right size research topic--not too broad or narrow.

Once you have defined your topic, write a research question. This practice can help guide your research.

Remember: The research process is cyclical rather than linear. You will most likely need to revisit your topic and research question to refine them as you search.

Intro to Framing

  • Searching involves learning about your idea as you go. 
  • Think about words connected to your idea. 
  • All words are not equally important. 
  • You do not have work alone!  Click through the slides and then check out the video below to see how to use the words you already have to find new ones. 


Titles/Hypotheses/Research Questions/Topics

Start where you are. Pick apart your research question if you haven't already.

Highlight the Key Pieces

Not everything written down is important to the investigation.  Focus in on the most important...well, keywords. 


Sometimes you may not need a word at all because it is implied in the effort itself.  Some words need to be given more thought to see if they matter.  

Each Word is World of Ideas

Every word you use can contain numerous other ideas. Maybe those ideas are more specific.  Maybe those ideas are just ways to convey the same idea more precisely.  

Jargon, Jargon and more Jargon

It's like a spider's web. 

Using Databases to Brainstorm