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Research Writing ~ How to Write a Research Paper

Choosing Your Topic

  • Choose a topic you are interested in, and can find information about.
  • Topics can change during the course of your research. Think about the news. 
  • Your opinion of the topic might change as you conduct your research and find out more about the subject.
  • Choose a topic that is not too broad or too narrow. The first will be hard to keep a focus on and the second might be hard to find information about.


Brainstorm Your Topic

You may discover that you’re looking for information by search terms which are not the most effective. Databases use search terminology called Subject Terms. Find these descriptive words to help with your search. For example: "death penalty" is often classified as "capital punishment."  Write all of those search terms down to keep track of them. These terms might give you new ways of thinking about your topic. 


Narrowing Your Topic

After you have found some information, try to narrow your topic. If your topic is too broad, it will be hard to keep a focus in your paper and the information range will be too large. Adjust your topic to a subject field that is specific enough to research without having large amounts of articles, but still general enough to have some relevant information sources. Think of what question you want to answer within your topic. These will help you narrow your topic to a more focused viewpoint.