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How to Write a Research Paper: Developing a Topic
Need help with your research paper. Check out this LibGuide to find out how to get started.
If your research topic is too broad, you will find too much information and will need to narrow the scope. Take a few minutes to think about your topic . . .
Is there a specific aspect of your topic that interests you?
Can you limit your research to a specific time period?
Consider focusing your research on one geographic area.
Can you focus your topic on a specific group of people or things?
Example: A broad topic might be eating disorders, but you could narrow it by focusing on a specific eating disorder in a specific class of people.
Broadening Your Topic
If you are having difficulty finding enough information, there could be many reasons. Start by thinking about the following:
Your topic may be too narrow, and you may need to broaden it.
Your topic may be too current for scholarly books and articles to have been published.
Have you searched in all the library databases for information? Consider talking to a librarian to see if there is a specific database that you should be looking at.
You may not be using the right search terms. A librarian can assist you in identifying the best keywords and phrases to use.
Example: Trying to write a paper about drug abuse among college hockey players in Boston may be too narrow. You could consider broadening your topic to look at drug abuse among college athletes.
Selecting a Topic
In selecting a topic, it is always a good idea to pick a topic you are interested in. If you need ideas, try checking out some of the following resources. And if you already have your topic these are excellent resources to use as you begin your research.
A weekly publication that covers today's most important issues and controversial subjects. Each issue is an in-depth, single topic report with extensive bibliographies. It is a great place to start your research or to browse through for topic ideas. The library also has it in print in the reference collection (REF H36.C672)
Presents a variety of perspectives on today's hottest social issues. Content includes: pro/con viewpoint essays, topic overviews, primary source documents, court case overviews, periodical articles, and much more.
Opposing Viewpoints Series
These are a collection of books located in the Reference Collection (REF H36. O5). Each volume covers a current controversial issue in a debate-style context. Browse through the titles looking for topics that interest you.
This site promotes "critical thinking, education and informed citizenship by presenting controversial issues in a straightforward, nonpartisan, primarily pro-con format."
Taking Sides Series
These are a collection of books located in the Reference Collection (REF H36. T133). Each volume covers a current controversial issue in a debate-style context. Browse through the titles looking for topics that interest you.
Picking Your Topic is Research
Check out this video from North Carolina State University on picking your topic!