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ENG 2100 - Research Writing and Argumentation: 1. Develop Your Topic

In-class Research Workshop

Get to Know Your Assignment

Do you understand your research assignment and what is expected of you?

Before selecting a topic or starting your research, 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 journal, book, government document)
  • When is the assignment due? How much time do you have to do your research?
  • Is currency of information important?

When in doubt, consult your instructor.

Plan Ahead

Choose a Topic

Can’t think of a topic to research? 

  • Scan your textbook for broad topic ideas.
  • Peruse current magazines and newspapers to see what catches your eye.
  • Discuss potential topics with your instructor, a librarian or a classmate.
  • Browse some online news sources to discover "hot topics."
  • Browse some of the following resources:

Example: encyclopedia psychology

Steps to Develop a Topic and a Research Question

Video used with permission from NCSU under Creative Commons 3.0 BY-NC-SA US license

Need Help?

Identifying Keywords

Before you can begin searching for information in a print or online resource, you need to identify keywords related to your topic. Key terminology can be found easily 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, then 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.

Keyword Ideas

What keywords should I use to search?

The Brainstorming Keywords worksheet below illustrates how to start thinking about keywords.

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