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Research Help - Getting Started: Topics

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Choosing a topic seems like the easiest part of doing a research paper or project.  In fact, sometimes the topic is even assigned.  Often, however, it is the topic that causes frustration and discouragement in the research process.  Use these tips to ensure that your topic is not the culprit in your academic stress load!

  • Make sure your topic is not too broad.  If you've been given an assignment to write a 5-page paper about the civil war, you will need to narrow that topic down!  Whole books, and even encyclopedia sets have been written about the civil war.  Condensing ALL that information into a 5-page paper will neither be interesting, nor will it do the topic justice.  Instead, find an aspect about the civil war that intrigues you (or at least piques your interest).  Researching the role of women in the war, or the influence of religion in a confederate soldier's life, for example, will allow you to focus your thoughts, direct your research, and steer your writing. 
  • Make sure your topic isn't too narrow! If you find that you are unable to find any information that directly addresses your topic, it could be too narrow.  While information about the affects of steroids on teen sports players may be plentiful, finding articles about the effects of steroids on asian students in 8th grade may not.  If you are unable to find information about your topic, ask your professor or a librarian for help!
  • Lastly, try VERY HARD to find a topic that interests you.  You'll be spending a large amount of time with a research project.  Having a topic you actually care about will make that time seem shorter and even more enjoyable.

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