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ES 104: Oral Communication in the Information Age

A guide developed for students taking Engineering Science 104.

Develop Your Research Topic


Newspapers and more general media are a great place to explore what topics you might be interested in. 

Brainstorm topic ideas

As you are searching for information and learning more about your topic, you will be refining the focus of your topic. You can brainstorm topic ideas using the five Ws:

  • Who: a person, organization, demographic group
  • What: an event, theory, discovery
  • Where: a country, region, defined geographic space
  • When: a time span, century, era
  • Why: description of the significance of this topic

For a quick example, see how to five Ws were used to brainstorm topic ideas related to police brutality below.

Step 1: Brainstorm Ideas. Choose a couple Ws to focus on, and make quick lists of things you might research. In thinking about police brutality, we chose Who, What, Where, and When

What When Where Who
Excessive Force Civil rights movement Baltimore African Americans
Misconduct 1960 Chicago Immigrants
Unlawful arrest 20th century LA Convicts
Gun violence 2013-2018 (a range of years) Great Britain Children
Body cameras   North America Women
Education     Prisoners
Ensuing Riots      

Step 2: Put them together

Add your brainstormed ideas together, integrate the WHY these topics interest you, and you have a researchable topic!

Ensuing Riots + 20th century + LA + African Americans + Significance =

How did the 1992 Los Angeles Riots affect relations between police and the African American community?

REMEMBER: It is important to keep your research topic open-ended. As you perform your research, you will inevitably refine or narrow your topic.

Mind Mapping

Mind mapping is a great tool for both narrowing your research topic and generating search terms for locating information resources.