Research Process Overview
Choosing a topic is the first step in the research process. Often you will start with a general topic, but these general ideas are too broad to research. You will need to refine your thesis to a narrower and more focused topic. You want a topic that is large enough to find information on, but not so large that it would be impossible to research and write a paper in the allotted time frame of your class.
Some things to consider:
- Really explore the topic from as many angles or points of view possible. You want to do this whether you are researching a topic unfamiliar to you or an aspect of an already familiar topic. You should avoid writing about a topic where you have already decided your position and then located research to support your viewpoint. That is not really research; that is you confirming your viewpoint or opinion.
- Try finding a topic that is unique and interesting. There are many overused topics where you will have little to add that already hasn't been stated. You also want to be sure that you are interested in the topic. If you are not, this could make the research process much more difficult!
- Find a topic with some controversy, a topic that makes you think about it and want to argue it. This sometimes includes a viewpoint that you do not necessarily agree with. This can be challenging, but it can also help you become a better researcher and writer.
- Remember to examine your assignment guidelines carefully. These guidelines are important for understanding the depth of research needed, the length your paper will be and the types of sources you will need to use. Always ask your instructor for clarification on your assignment if you are unsure!
If you are having trouble deciding on a topic, you may want to explore the resources listed on the left in the "Need ideas for a topic?" box.
Search Strategy Worksheet
Use this worksheet to help you identify your topic, brainstorm search terms, determine the best resources and more!
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