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Research Roadmap: Starting

Choosing a Topic

Make sure you understand the assignment

Your first step is to make sure that you understand the requirements of the assignment by asking yourself the following questions:

  • What are your professor's expectations?
  • How in-depth (how long) will the finished project be?
  • How many and what type of sources are you expected to use in your research?
  • What is the expected final product (a formal paper, an oral presentation, a PowerPoint presentation etc.)?

Find inspiration

The following tips can help you to choose a topic that will work for you:

  • Choose a topic that is interesting to you
  • Work with your professor or TA to develop ideas
  • Talk with classmates about possible topics
  • Consult your class notes, textbook, or the web for ideas
  • Talk to a librarian about how much information is available on your topic
  • Librarians can also show you specialized encyclopedias that will help stimulate topic ideas

Anticipate changes

As you work on your project, your understanding of your topic will change. It is okay to be flexible and adjust your topic according to the information that you are finding (or not finding).

Keyword Development

One of the hardest tasks when starting research in a new area is identifying keyword terms appropriate for your topic.

Before you start searching:

  1. write down your main research question
  2. brainstorm related key ideas or concepts and their synonyms

Sample research question:

What are some environmental factors associated with wind turbines?

Concepts Concept A: Environmental Factors Concept B: Wind turbines Concept C (if needed)
Possible search terms/phrases & alternatives

environmental factors
environmental effects
environmental impact

wind turbines
wind power
wind farms
wind generators
united states
More specific or narrower terms/phrases noise
noise pollution

new england