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Women's & Gender Studies Research

Developing a Research Topic and Focused Thesis Statement

A thesis statement clearly identifies the topic being discussed, includes the points discussed in the paper, and is written for a specific audience. Your thesis statement belongs at the end of your first paragraph, also known as your introduction. Use it to generate interest in your topic and encourage your audience to continue reading. 

Most researchers start out with a broad topic of interest and then narrow it down to a particular area of focus and question. If a topic is too broad, you will find too much information and the project will be unmanageable. It will be far easier for you to research and write your paper if you develop a strong focused research question or topic:

Do some exploratory research on your topic idea, in your course textbook, class notes, and Mardigian Search to identify specific issues, arguments, and analytical approaches in your research area and then identify possible relationships between them. 

Ask yourself questions about your topic idea:

  • What concepts, issues, or other aspects of this topic interest you?
  • What are the major issues, debates, and disagreements of the topic you are studying?
  • What gaps, contradictions, or concerns arise as you learn more about it?
  • What relationships are there between different aspects of the topic?
  • How does the topic relate back to the larger themes discussed in your course(s)?

Focus your topic: Use the information from your exploratory research to identify a few of the specific aspects that interest you and then use the questions you had about those to create your focused research question and thesis statement. 

Write about what interests you: Professors want students to write about topics that they care about. If you're interested in the topic, it will be more fun for you to write your paper and probably more fun for your professor to read it, too.

Ask your course instructor or study advisor for feedback on your research question and thesis statement.

Picking Your Topic IS Research

Once you've picked a research topic for your paper, it isn't set in stone. It's just an idea that you will test and develop through exploratory research. This exploratory research may guide you into modifying your original idea for a research topic. Watch this video for more info:

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