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LAW 807A-001: Legal Anthropology

Dr. Deepa Das Acevedo, Fall 2023

Developing Research Questions

A well-formed research question should include three parts:

1) the problem that you are investigating,

2) your thesis or argument, and

3) the limits of your project.

Research questions should be focused enough to guide your project. They will serve as the primary tool for defining the scope of your research, analyzing your data, and communicating results.

The Craft of Research by Wayne Booth is an excellent resource for any researcher. This book covers the entire research process from topic development to writing. It is full of sound advice presented in a straightforward and engaging style. 

Research as a Process

Leverage what you learn as you do your research 

  • Once you find terms that are especially helpful for retrieving on-point results, continue using those terms in your searches.
  • Are particular works on your topic cited by a lot of different scholars? If so, it may be useful for you to learn about those works.
  • If you are new to a topic, familiarizing yourself with materials that give you an overview or general information can be a useful starting point before you turn to more narrowly-focused works. 
  • If you are researching a topic at the intersection of different disciplines, like anthropology and religion, law and political science, law and anthropology, etc., be sure to look at a variety of materials written by scholars from distinct fields and in different databases.

Video Tutorials about Scoping a Research Question and the Research Process

This tutorial covers the iterative nature of research, and it provides a concrete example of what it means to effectively scope your research question:

This tutorial explains why you will probably need to conduct several searches in multiple databases in order to find enough information on all aspects of your research topic:

Helpful steps for researchers

  • Keep a record of which search terms worked and in which databases. This can keep you from repeating your steps and save you time.
  • Did you find an article or a book you really like? Then, read the cited references (a.k.a. bibliography, end notes, footnotes) to find similar articles. This can bias your project by focusing on only one side of an issue so use caution with this method.
  • Ask for help. Ask an Emory librarian for search tips or suggestions about databases to try. Also, use the help screens in the databases for instructions and tips.