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Choosing your topic

Whether you can choose any topic or you must select one from an assigned list of topics, pick something that interests you. You may want to do some background reading on a couple of topics before you make a final decision. If you don't know much about the topics you're considering, general encyclopedias like Encyclopaedia Britannica can give you the basics.

Identify Your Topic

When do you start research for an assignment? Research usually takes more time than you expect. The best time to start is the day the assignment is made. Plan on spending enough time, and research assignments will become an opportunity to explore ideas that are of great interest to you. Begin your research late and these same assignments will be a source of anxiety and frustration.

Begin your research by

1. Choosing a topic

What should you consider when you're choosing a topic?

2. Writing a research question

Once you have an idea for your topic, you may want to first write it out as a statement of the information you need.

Example: Here are some examples that state clear information needs.

Restating your information need in the form of a research question helps to focus your efforts.

Example: The following research question is based on the second information need above:

Does television violence have an effect on preschool age children?

Example: A research question which suggests a point of view you want to pursue might be worded as follows:

Does television violence have a negative effect on preschool age children?

Once you have a research question, you are ready to begin your preliminary research as you look for an answer. If you need to, do some background reading to learn the basic facts about your topic, identify any special terminology, and develop a framework for your research.

3. Identifying the key concepts

You will use key concepts as you look for information. Identify your key concepts using the words and phrases in your research question. Also identify any synonyms or alternative terms for those concepts.

Example:

Research question: Does television violence have a negative effect on preschool age children?

Key concepts: television, violence, preschool children

Synonyms and alternate terms: TV, kindergarten, nursery school, toddlers

Key terms and concepts they are especially important when you develop search statements to use with databases.

4. Writing a thesis statement

Once you have enough information to begin to answer to your research question, you will be ready to make a thesis statement.

Example: Here are some thesis statements that might provide the basis for a paper or presentation that answers the research question in #2 and #3, above.

Revise your key concepts (#3, above) as needed and use them as you look for more in-depth information to support your thesis.

Need more help?

When you need help on your research project, talk to your professor, stop by the Services Desk at the Library, make an appointment to talk with a Reference Librarian, or talk with someone in the Writing Resource Center on your campus.

Last updated: 6/13/2012 4:00:40 PM