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Developing a Research Topic

A process, not a choice

Developing a Topic vs. Choosing a Topic: It's a Process!

Remember when you were just given a researchable topic (or a list of topics) for a paper or project? Your job was to look for resources on that topic and learn how to cite them -- and, certainly, never read any more than what the assignment required.

Now, your professors have started leaving the the choice, the fun, and the work up to you! Some general guidelines are all you are given -- after that it's all up to you. The good news is that you get to choose something to work on that really interests you. The challenge is that you get to decide with which of your many interests to begin your investigation. And, yes...that general topic area idea is just the beginning. It still needs to be tested, explored, narrowed (and sometimes broadened), tested again (and again) to see if the resources you need are available. In other words, your idea needs to be developed into a researchable question or statement. This is a great time in your project to visit a Reference Librarian for help with resources!

This process that comes before the writing is called the Research CycleNot only is it necessary; it's efficient -- and will result in a better final project and grade. By spending more of your time and effort in this stage, you will save time when it comes to writing. You will have both the background and the specific knowledge about your question or statement that you to critically think your way through your paper or project. At this point, the paper may actually feel like it's writing itself -- or, at the very least, you have everything you need to make that appointment with a tutor or your instructor to get that last bit of assistance.

Critical Thinking