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Develop a Research Topic


Decipher My Assignment

Brainstorm

Browse Topic Ideas

Do you need topic ideas? Make sure you pick something that is interesting to you! Start by browsing some of these great websites and databases to uncover potential topic ideas. These sources will provide background information with pathways for deeper research.

  • CQ Researcher - Browse overviews of current high-interest topics that affect everyday life in the US and abroad
  • Public Agenda Topics - A nonprofit public opinion research website that explores major controversial topics
  • Topics from the Online NewsHour - A public TV news program that offers transcripts of discussions on current issues

Do a Background Check

You can't be too careful! If you're going to be spending quality time with your topic {weeks, days, a single evening}, it is a good idea to first test your topic in a few search tools and gather some background information. This will help you better understand your topic before you commit to the relationship.

Learn how the following sources can help you grasp the broader context of your topic and provide you with pathways to start your research:

Wikipedia

Wikipedia is super useful for gathering basic background information on many topics. Though you may not be able to cite Wikipedia in your paper, the articles often supply links and citations to more verifiable information.

Be sure to look at the references for links and citations. Remember to evaluate the information you find. If an article does not provide references, then check another background source.

Sage e-Reference

Sage eReference is a collection of over 100 encyclopedias and a fantastic place to find overviews on thousands of topics.

Unlike Wikipedia, these encyclopedias are written by prominent scholars, so you know the information you find is comprehensive and accurate. SSU has several online encyclopedia collections...try them all!

Oxford English Dictionary

Specialized dictionaries can help you better understand your topic by providing definitions and word origins on the words used to describe your topic.

The Oxford English Dictionary is a historical dictionary of English, covering the language from the earliest times to the present day, tracing word development through time.

CQ Researcher

CQ Researcher provides in-depth reports on current events and controversial topics, including health, social trends, criminal justice, international affairs, education, the environment, technology, and the economy.

These reports provide excellent introductory overviews, background and chronology on hundreds of topics.

Create Questions

Are you looking for answers? Your search becomes much easier when you know the question.

Start by writing out your topic as a question. Ask yourself:

Is My Question Clear?

Your research question needs to be as clear as possible to effectively direct your research.

Too Unclear: Why are social networking sites harmful?

Better: How are online users experiencing or addressing privacy issues on such social networking sites as MySpace and Facebook?

Is My Question Focused?

Your research question must have a specific focus so that you can cover the topic well in the length allowed for your project.

Too Unfocused: What effect does global warming have on the environment?

Better: How is glacial melting affecting penguins in the Arctic Circle?

Is My Question Complex?

Your research question should not be answerable with easily-found facts. Your question should require research and analysis.

Too Simple: How are doctors addressing diabetes in the U.S.?

Better: What are common traits of those suffering from diabetes in America, and how can these commonalities be used to aid the medical community in prevention of the disease?