1. Onderzoeksvraag2. Zoektermen – 3. Informatiebronnen – 4. Zoeken – 5. Selecteren van informatie – 6. Verwerken van bronnen

Simple and complex questions
Clarify assignment
Narrow down subject
Sub- and search questions

Narrow down subject

After your orientation, you will have a better idea of the possibilities of your topic. Determine which aspects of the topic you are going to deal with and which you are not. This will prevent your subject from becoming too broad and you from getting lost while looking for information.

You can also narrow down your topic by choosing a certain time period or, for example, a country or language to focus on.


You want to research “Problems around childcare”.

This is still very general and vague. By orienting yourself, you notice that you are particularly interested in the problems that have arisen since the privatization of the market in 2005. And especially the consequences for waiting lists. You have already demarcated by choosing:

  • The Dutch market
  • Since 2005
  • Problems due to privatisten
  • Effects of privatization on waiting lists

Main question

The main question is the central research question and corresponds to the problem definition or is directly derived from it. This question is the starting point of your research. The main question describes exactly what you want to know and gives direction to your search. It is therefore important to formulate your question well.

You can use the SMART method when formulating your main question.

SMART stands for:

S = Specific

M = Measurable

A = Achievable

R = Realistic

T = Time-based

The question is Specific. Make it very clear what the result of your research should be. If the question is too general, broad, and ill-defined, you will quickly get lost in a mass of information.

The question is Measurable. Be as specific as possible about how you can determine whether the goal has been achieved.

The question is Achievable. Is there sufficient support from the client and do you have the right resources at your disposal?

The question is Realistic. Be ambitious, but make sure the goal is attainable and the plans feasible.

The question is Time-bound. You have a starting point and finishing line; within this available time frame it should be possible to find an answer to the question.

It is also important that you ask an “open” question. So not a question to which only “yes” or “no” can be the answer.

Only when you have formulated a specific, open question that gives direction to the search process and makes clear what exactly you want to know, can you search effectively.