Developing a Research Topic

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1. Understand your assignment
Make sure you know what you are supposed to do. Do you have to write a short paper? Do you need to debate an issue? If you have questions, ask your professor! 

2. Think about what you would like to research
Pick something that you find interesting. If you are stumped for ideas, do some background research, check the news, and browse books for ideas.

3. Ask questions
You need more than a topic- you need a research question you can explore in your paper. Ask questions as you do your background research and think about what you would like to answer.

4. Scale your topic
Think about the parameters of your assignment, and think about what sources you might need to research and write your paper- statistics for evidence? Primary sources? Having a sense what you need to do and how you can do it can help you focus your research questions and your overall topic.

5. Iterate!
You will keep developing and refining your research question and overall topic as you conduct research and write your paper. But starting out with topic you like, questions you find interesting, and something that is scaled and researchable (not too broad or narrow) will help you a lot as you go forward!

Content last reviewed: September 19, 2018