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LANG 3070 - English Communication for Humanities and Social Science Studies II: Topic -> Question

Subthemes & Articles

You have 3 sub-themes for your conferences & your teachers have given you 1 article as a starting-point or example


Ancient artefacts and the contemporary world

Discourse communities

Utopia and dystopia


From Topic to Question

A topic is NOT a research question. 


Sub-theme: Spirituality & Religion

Topic: Buddhism in China

Possible Questions:

  • What circumstances in contemporary China tend to lead people to becoming more “actively” Buddhist?
  • How do people start to self-identify as Buddhist in large cities like Tianjin or Chengdu?
  • When a person decides to become a Buddhist monk or nun in contemporary Chinese societies like Hong Kong, Taiwan, or mainland China, how do their parents and friends react, and why?

Example 2:

Sub-theme: Gender & Family

How to go from topic to questions:


1. Do some background reading,  and/or outline what you have learned about your topic from previous classes and reading in the past few years

2. List questions & answers you may already have, along these lines

3. Think about your questions and what answers you have.

4. Try to make a  few clear questions, that are based on some of the ideas (theories, words, methods)  that you have learned in your course.

5. Try to choose one of the questions, not too wide & not too narrow.

6. Be prepared for your question to change.

Based on: "How do I get from a topic to a research question" -  from Cambridge LibAnswers

  • Who
  • What
  • Where 
  • When
  • How
  • Why

Questions to start asking yourself


What do I know about this sub-topic so far?

  • What courses have I taken at HKUST already that may relate to it?

Who do I mean? who  do I think I want to  study?

  • A population, certain types of people?

When did the things I’m researching happen?

  • In the Qing Dynasty?
  • 1949 to present?
  • 2990-2020?
  • Last 5 years?

Where is the phenomenon I’m researching happening?

  • All of China?
  • Tianjin, Qingdao & Xiamen?
  • Hong Kong, Guangzhou, & Shenzhen?

How & why  does what I’m researching happen?

  • Any theories that I can use to consider it?
  • Any scholarly theses or arguments that try to explain it?
  • Any methodologies used to try and study it to create empirical data?



Coureses at HKUST that inform my questions

Videos on Developing Research Questions

Topics vs Research Question (2:07 min) - from Virginia Tech

Using the 5Ws to Develop a Research Question (2:57 min) - New Literacies Alliance

Develping a Research Question (2:23 min) - University of Melbourne

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