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TC 302: Hunger / Bizer

Background information - Choose a topic

How do I start a research paper in college?

Choosing a topic is research - and it's the hardest part. Here are some common problems and how to fix them:

Problem:

You chose a very broad topic - ex. Irish potato famine

You can write many books about this event, but you are writing a very short research paper on the topic.

Solution:

Narrow your topic by focusing on a particular controversy - ask, Who cares about  my topic? (who are the stakeholders, who is impacted?), What are they arguing about? (What is the problem? What different solutions do they propose?)

Problem:

You chose an obscure topic - something on which there is little written.

Solution:

Choose your topic after doing some reading in encyclopedias (listed below). Your task is to find an argument that you can tap into and explore the conversation. Search across a few articles to explore and use the suggested bibliographies to find richer sources.

Problem:

You wrote your annotated bibliography, but now you have to write the paper and you're overwhelmed with all you found or some of it now seems useless.

This is a very common nightmare scenario! Sometimes when you are searching for your annotated bibliography you grab things from all over the place - you aren't sure what you are arguing about yet.

Solution:

These are advanced research skills! Listen up: 1) narrow down, through topic exploration, to an aspect of the broader topic early on (as in, Irish potato famine ----> food exports during the famine). 2) Keep track of where you searched and what you found - you may need more sources later on - where were you happiest searching? 3) Use bibliographies in articles and books you like. By engaging in and following the conversation around a topic, you will become familiar with the narrower controversies and can stay on track more easily.

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