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ENGL 100/101: First-Year Composition

What's my topic?

Use a concept map to organize your thinking. Usually we start out with a broad topic, and we need to think through what aspects are most interesting to us.

Resources to help you get started

Just learning about a topic? Want to see what scholars say about it? Browse some of the library's popular reference sources to learn more about the history, current topics, or major debates surrounding your big idea.

Writing a Research Question

Once you have selected a topic, you need to develop a research question. You may be used to working with a thesis statement, but a thesis statement is an answer. If you start your research with an answer, you might miss something important or your paper might be too one-sided. Starting with a question allows you to explore your topic while still having it clearly defined. A good research question is specific and focused.

Examples:

Topic: Netflix

Research Question: How has the rise of streaming television changed the nature of advertising during television shows?

Topic: the environmental impact of fracking

Research Question: What are some of the most effective ways of protecting local ground water from the waste water produced by fracking?

Tip: Beware of research questions that are too broad or too narrow.

Too Broad: Why is reality television so popular?

Too Narrow: What are the economic and social consequences of the popularity of Jersey Shore on the lives of teenagers living in Omaha, Nebraska?

Tip: be willing to tweak your research question as you go.

Research Question: How has the rise of streaming television changed the nature of advertising during television shows?

Potential Research Finding: Advertising during television hasn't changed much recently.

New Research Question: Why has advertising on television been able to remain the same when how we watch television has changed so much?