Before you start
- What do you already know about your subject?
Create a list of key words, names, events and other information.
- How long has your subject existed?
Is it a relatively new concept with a lot published about it, or new and undiscovered?
- What discipline does your topic fall into?
A discipline is the subject area of study or area of learning (e.g., History, Biology). Each has its own best starting points.
- How are you viewing the topic?
From what angle do you plan on exploring in your paper, for instance the politics, a biographical standpoint, history, or another aspect?
- Don't forget:
How long do you have to do this project? What is the required length of your paper? How many sources does your professor want you to use? What kind of sources has your professor asked you for (i.e. journal articles, print sources, etc.)?
Three Approaches for Developing a Topic
Approach #1: List Key Words of Interest
Make lists of concepts and topics you find interesting, as well as lists of related words and synonyms. These can serve as your key search terms.
|Concept 1:||Concept 2:||Look For:|
|educational choice||educational access||related terms?|
|open enrollment||access to education||alternate phrases?|
|educational vouchers||social justice||
key names, events?
Approach #2: Draw It Out
Sketch out the relationships between ideas.
Approach #3: Define it in Sentences
Write an explanation of your topic, justifying it on multiple levels:
I am studying...
conformity in Woolf’s Orlando
in order to find out...
how Orlando’s efforts to conform and ﬁt in change over time
in order to help my reader understand...
the role maturity and self-awareness play in the character’s efforts to conform to societal norms.
Adapted from The Craft of Research by Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams.