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Research Strategies & Tips: Identify Your Topic

This guide provides information on identifying topics, developing search statements, finding and evaluating sources, and using information ethically.

Choosing a topic

Whether you can choose any topic or you must select one from an assigned list of topics, pick something that interests you.

You may want to do some background reading on a couple of topics before you make a final decision. Looking for articles on your topic in general or relevant subject-focused databases can give you an idea of ways scholars are thinking and writing about your topic.

If you don't know much about the topics you're considering, general encyclopedias like Encyclopedia Americana and Encyclopaedia Britannica can give you the basics.

What should you consider when you're choosing a topic?

From research question to thesis statement

♦ Writing a research question

Once you have an idea for your topic, you may want to first write it out as a statement of the information you need.

Example: Here are some examples that state clear information needs.

Restating your information need in the form of a research question helps to focus your efforts. It can also help you avoid bias in your approach to the topic.

Example: The following research question is based on the second information need above:

Does television violence have an effect on preschool age children?

Example: A research question which suggests a point of view you want to pursue might be worded as follows:

Does television violence have a negative effect on preschool age children?

Once you have a research question, you are ready to begin exploratory research to see how others may have addressed your question.

♦ Writing a thesis statement

Your exploratory research should allow you to decide what position you want to take on your topic. You will be ready to write a thesis statement.

Example: Here are some thesis statements that might provide the basis for a paper or presentation on the effects of televsion violence on children.

Whatever thesis statement you write will be based on your point of view on your topic, the evidence you have found in your research, and your ethical interpretation and use of that information.