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Get Started with Research

Selecting a Topic

Selecting a topic can be one of the most difficult parts of writing a research paper.  Ask yourself the following questions about your topic to make sure you've picked a topic that will keep both yourself and your audience (those reading your paper) engaged. If you can answer yes to all the questions, you're ready to start gathering sources.

  • Am I interested in the topic?
  • Will I enjoy researching this topic?
  • Will I enjoy talking about this topic and sharing my information with my readers?
  • Will my readers be interested in my topic?
  • Am I passionate about this topic?

Once you choose your topic, you should work it into a research question.  You can do so by thinking about the elements of your topic. 

  • Who?- Who is involved? Whom does it affect? Is there a specific population of demographic group you want to focus on?
  • What-? What is the problem or the issue? What aspect of the problem is interesting to you? 
  • Where?- Is there a specific geographic location you want to focus on?
  • When?- Is there a time frame or a specific historical event you want to look at?
  • How?- How does one aspect of your topic affect another?

A simple way to format your research question is:

I am studying... (topic)
Because I want to find out... (question)
In order to help my reader understand/see... (significance) (what is interesting, unusual, overlooked or misunderstood)
So that... (practical application)

Developing a Research Question