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Research Guides

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Your Research Journey Starts with a Good Topic

the Plan portion of the research process with the steps: explore your topic, find keywords, write a research questionBefore you can write any paper, you have to pick a topic. This can take many paths. Maybe the topic is assigned to you, or you can pick whatever topic you want. Either way, you can choose the topic that is interesting to you.

The reason you want to pick a topic that is interesting to you is so that researching becomes an investigative journey rather than a dredge through a swamp of information. But this doesn't make it easy. Sometimes just picking a topic can be the hardest part of your research, especially when you can pick any possible topic in existence.

Starting from topics that interest you is key. What have you been thinking about lately? What news have you been following? What do you enjoy doing? What is something you are curious about that you don't know anything about? No matter how weird the topic is, there is usually a way to make it into a topic that is researchable on an academic level.

But doing that is going to take a bit of work. So here are some things to consider before getting started:

  • Understand the assignment. Before beginning your research, make sure you know exactly what is required for the assignment. Make sure you understand these specifics about the assignment:
    • What type of presentation or paper is required?  Are you writing an argumentative essay, expressing your opinion, analyzing the facts you've gathered, gathering sources for a bibliography, or giving a speech?
    • How long is the presentation? Are you writing a 5-6 page paper, a bibliography, or giving a 5-minute speech?
    • How many and what kind of sources are required? Can these sources be popular books, articles from popular magazines or newspapers, and Web sites, or are scholarly sources required?
    • What format is required for your writing assignment?  MLA, APA, or another?
    • What is the due date?
  • Try to avoid overused topic ideas. Topics like abortion, gun control, teen pregnancy, assisted suicide, or athlete drug abuse are often chosen by students and tend to be overused. If you must use these topics, try to think of a unique perspective on the topic. 
  • Choose a topic that interests you. Personal interest makes research more enjoyable and if it is of interest to you, you'll probably do a better job of writing.
  • For INFO 1010, this means picking a topic that is interesting to you, but also works within the theme of your ENGL 2010 class, if you are taking these classes together. Think about whether or not the topic will work for a 7-10 page paper.

Finding stuff in the Library

Databases to start with