STEP ONE: The first step to research is developing a topic that is not too broad or narrow in scope. To begin, think about:
STEP TWO: To narrow or broaden the topic, add or remove a time period, place, person(s), event or subtopic:
Problem: Topic is too general and broad to address through a short piece of writing
Problem: Topic is too specific and narrow
STEP THREE: Restate the topic using "who, what, where, why, when, and how" questions. For example:
Deciphering your Assignment Tutorial
This video tutorial will show you how to deconstruct an assignment to its basic parts and identify appropriate sources to complete it successfully:
When beginning a research project, it's helpful to explore the background of a topic to familiarize yourself with key concepts and issues before forming an argument.
One way you could learn about your topic and narrow your focus is by finding a Wikipedia article on the subject, then skimming its table of contents and reading that small section of interest. Doing this will help you go from the general topic of "climate change" to a narrower topic, like "How have rising sea levels resulting from climate change impacted island nations?"
Some good sources to help you learn about and narrow your topic include:
When doing background research, remember the following:
After you have selected and developed your research topic and question, you can use a concept map to use as a guide while searching for information.
Also called mind maps, a concept map is a visual way of representing how your ideas and important concepts are connected and interrelated.
Why build a concept map? Because it can help you:
Follow the links below to build your own concept or mind map:
A working thesis is a "rough draft" of your thesis that provides initial direction for the essay but will be adjusted and changed as you research and write.
As you gather and read more sources, you will find evidence that requires you to modify the working thesis. To form a working thesis, ask questions that trigger a debatable claim.
Example 1: In using the theme of environmentalism and the topic of recycling, here are questions to consider:
A working thesis based on these questions could be: Calgary should expand recycling programs for discarded electronics.
Example 2: In using the theme of reproductive rights and the topic of childcare, here are a few questions to consider:
A working thesis based on these questions could be: Alberta should provide access to affordable daycare similar to what is available in Québec.*
*Adapted from the "Student Papers & Academic Research Kit" Tutorial, copyright at SPARK at York University 2013
Developing a Topic Tutorial
This video shows you how to develop an appropriate topic for a research paper by considering goals, approaches, topic scope, and helpful resources: