n most cases, you will be asked to pick a question that you would like to research. How do you pick a good one?
- Pick a topic that really interests you. Don't start by trying to figure out what is the "right" question to pick. Start by thinking of topics that really grab your attention and that you really want to know more about.
- Narrow it down to a question. For example, let's say that you are really interested in why women earn less than men. That is a great question, but it is a big one. You will not be able to answer it in a ten-page paper. You could narrow it down by saying that you want to look at why there is a difference in income between male and female doctors or business executives. Those are manageable questions.
- Is your question sociological? If you are writing for a sociology class, you want to make sure that your question is sociological. A good basic definition of a sociological question is as follows: Sociological questions are questions that examine the social meaning or patterns of a phenomenon. The key here is that it has to be social - involving groups rather than individuals - and it has to address patterns or meanings. Let's take the example of AIDS. Here are three very interesting questions about AIDS.
The first question is a medical question. The second is a medical and psychological question. Only the third is really a sociological question. Why? Only the third question looks at patterns among groups. Sociologists also look at questions of meaning. So another sociological question on AIDS could focus on the symbolic meaning of AIDS in contemporary America. The key is to make sure that you are looking at patterns and meaning for groups, not individuals.
- What treatments are effective in prolonging the lives of AIDS patients?
- Does having AIDS increase the likelihood a person will be depressed?
- Does treatment for HIV vary by social class and ethnicity?
Once you have your question refined, it is time to start your literature review and research.