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Start Your Research

Identify Your Question

Choosing your topic is the first step in the research process. It is not always easy to come up with a good topic.Your assignment will be your starting point, and the requirements will tell you a lot about what sorts of ideas will make an appropriate topic. Following the steps below will help you to develop a research topic once you have a broad topic idea:

  • Background research will help you develop your topic and hone or change it in more appropriate ways. Though this seems like extra work, it is actually a vital, time-saving step. Knowing more about your topic's background can only help you develop a more effective topic, and therefore, research paper.
  • Brainstorm concepts. Once you think of a broad topic that interests you, try to brainstorm all of the words or concepts you can that might be related to that topic. For example, if your topic is "polar bears," you might think of the following words and topics in association: ice, cubs, pollution, hunting, diet, climate change, and environmental icon. It may help to write this process down.
  • Develop a research question. Once you have come up with a broad topic and done some background research, you may want to develop a research question, or a question you're going to answer in your paper by doing more, in-depth research.

A good research topic must be narrow and focused enough to be interesting, yet broad enough to find adequate information. If during your test search, you found too many or too few results, you may need to either narrow, or broaden your topic to make it more manageable. Use some of the strategies below to refine your topic:

Keywords are the main terms that describe your research question or topic. Keep track of these words so you can use them when searching for books and articles.

  • Look for words that best describe your topic
  • Look for keywords when reading background information or encyclopedia articles on your topic
  • Use a thesaurus, your textbook and subject headings in databases to find different keywords
  • Make note of these words and use them later when searching databases and catalogs

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