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A Guide to the Research Process

Choose a Topic

There are a lot of ways to go about choosing a topic for your research assignment.  Think about what interests you in your class and meets the parameters of the assignment.  Make sure to review the assignment description.  Does your professor give you a specific topic to cover, or are you responsible for choosing the subject?

To begin, take out a blank sheet of paper or open a document:

  • Were you provided with a list of possible topics by your professor? Which do you find interesting?
  • If you were not given a list of possible topics, what do you find interesting about the course?
  • Are there any controversial aspects to this topic or area of study?
  • List any questions you have about this topic or area of study.
  • Browse through your textbook for possible topics.
  • Discuss possible research topics with friends and classmates.  

If you're having trouble creating a list of topics use a current events database which provides background information on many topics.

Try It!
  1. Free-writing, write down whatever comes to mind. Don't worry about correct spelling, etc.
  2. Put yourself on a timer, start with writing or listing ideas for 3 minutes
  3. Create a diagram, write your central idea in the middle of the paper and add branching aspects

Evolving Your Topic as You Search

As you search, you may want or need to adjust your topic based on what you find. This is a regular part of the research process!

This brief video above demonstrates one way that adjusting might look.