Research typically begins with a topic that has piqued your curiosity. When you're researching a topic, you typically are interested in questions of who, what, where and when.
As you learn more about your chosen topic, however, you'll discover that scholars may have different approaches and arguments about the topic, and you'll start to ask your own research questions. Research questions typically begin with why or how:
When you've selected a research question to explore and are ready to make an argument as to how to answer it, you'll come up with a thesis.
The Craft of Research is an essential guide to the research process in any discipline. The authors provide clear guidance about how to get from a topic to a research question to a thesis (claim), and how to support claims with evidence.
Background: You use tertiary sources (subject encyclopedias, textbooks, overviews) to establish basic facts and definitions.
Exhibit: You analyze and interpret primary sources.
Argument: You evaluate and assess the arguments in academic secondary sources as a way to join the scholarly conversation.
Method: You use theories or disciplinary approaches when examining your topic.