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For Students: Begin

Help and guidance for all stages of the research process, including selecting a topic, finding materials, and using sources in your writing. Replaces the previous Services for Students page.

Topic Inspiration

If you're stuck, check out these resources on current events and subjects of debate for some possibilities.

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Tips for Choosing a Topic

When choosing a topic for a research project, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is this topic interesting?  If you enjoy the subject, doing research will be easier.  If you show some enthusiasm in your writing, you will usually be rewarded. 
  • Does this subject fit the course?  Keep in mind the expectations your professor has for the project.  If you have doubts about your subject, discuss it with your professor.
  • Is this topic worth pursuing?  Your project may be something you have to do, but it should also be something of value.  Your project should be original and something you are genuinely interested in.  Otherwise, it is a waste of your time and the time of your professor to just rehash things said many times before or to dwell on the obvious.  Being original does not mean you have to discover a new law of nature; it means using a fresh approach to a subject or taking your own position on an issue.
  • Can this topic be researched?  Many topics do not work well as research projects.  Some topics are too obscure or have taken place too recently to have generated much literature in the libraries.  Other topics may require critical thinking, but do not lend themselves to research. Popular topics are not always easy to research because of the overwhelming amount of resources available on such topics.
  • Does the size of my topic fit the length of the assignment? Many students begin with topics that are very broad and cover more than can be adequately discussed in a typical undergraduate paper. To narrow down a topic, keep asking 5W questions (Who, What, When, Where, Why) until you reach something more manageable. 

Getting Started

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