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Yes for Prep

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:

Developing a Focused Research Question or Topic from a Broad Idea

A broad topic has literally thousands of articles on it, and you won't be able to adequately cover it in your literature review. It will be far easier for you to research and write your papers if you develop a strong, focused research question:

Do some exploratory research on your topic idea in your course textbook, class notes, and subject encyclopedias to identify specific issues, groups of people, time periods associated with your topic 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 have people said about it? What gaps, contradictions, or concerns arise as you learn more about it? What relationships are there between different aspects of the topic?

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 research question.

Write about what interests you: Teachers 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 teacher to read it, too.

Ask your teachers for their feedback on your research topic or question 

Example: Egypt

1. I look at the Egypt entry in the Encyclopedia of World History to do some exploratory research 

  • Specific people: Cleopatra, Pharohs, slaves
  • Specific issues: pyramad building, wars with the Roman empire
  • Specific time period: ancient Egypt, Ptolemic Egypt, modern Egypt

2. I ask myself questions about possible relationships between these:

  • The relationship between Cleopatra and the Roman empire
  • The relationship between pharohs and the Egyptian pyramids
  • The relationship between slaves and the building of Egyptian monuments

3. I focus these into research topics or questions and choose the one that interests me the most:

  • Cleopatra's encounters with the Roman empire
  • Why did the Pharohs build the Egyptian pyramids?
  • Were ancient Egyptian monuments like the pyramids built by slaves?
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