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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.)?
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
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).
One of the hardest tasks when starting research in a new area is identifying keyword terms appropriate for your topic.
Before you start searching:
- write down your main research question
- brainstorm related key ideas or concepts and their synonyms
Sample research question:
What are some environmental factors associated with wind turbines?
||Concept A: Environmental Factors
||Concept B: Wind turbines
||Concept C (if needed)
|Possible search terms/phrases & alternatives
|More specific or narrower terms/phrases