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Fowler Essay Guide: Topic Development

How To Develop a Good Research Topic

Understanding Your Asssignment

Make sure you understand your assignment and its requirements. 

Consider the following:

  • Have you been assigned a topic or can you pick your own?
  • How many pages/words do you need to write? How long is your presentation?
  • Do you need to include specific types of sources? (e.g. scholarly articles, books, newspapers, etc.)
  • When is the assignment due? How much time do you have to research?

When in doubt, consult with your instructor.

Choose a Topic

Start thinking about possible topics early when the assignment is given.

Think about: What topics interest you? Make sure the topic fits the requirements of the assignment.

Brainstorming is a good way to get some ideas on paper.

Remember that the initial topic you come up with may not be the final topic you end up writing about. Research topics are fluid and evolve as you go through the research process. This is common.

Identifying Keywords

Before searching for information, you need to identify keywords related to your topic. The keywords you use have an impact on the results of your research. 

Keywords and phrases can easily be found by scanning . . .

  • your initial research questions
  • encyclopedia and other articles used when conducting background research
  • bibliographies found at the end of books and articles

If you are still struggling, try these suggestions:

  • Use a thesaurus to identify synonyms
  • Find pictures related to your topic, then describe the picture
  • Brainstorm keywords with a librarian, your instructor, or a friend

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