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HPS 402/502: Senior Seminar

Research Guide for HPS 402

Strong Research Topics/Questions

A strong research topic/question covers a well-defined and well-studied area of research.

Strong research topics/questions are:

  • focused
  • clear and simple
  • manageable
  • consistent with assignment requirements
  • of interest to you

Developing Your Research Topics & Questions

A broad topic has literally thousands of articles on it, and you won't be able to adequately cover it in your paper. 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 Summon 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 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 focused research question.

Choose a current topic: Your goal is to summarize and evaluate current findings of an area of research. Pick a research topic about which articles are continuing to be published. Avoid defunct or little-known areas of research. 

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 Dr. Draus for feedback on your research question.

Example

General topic: health care disparities

Do some exploratory research: I search for health care disparities in my one of my course readings or textbooks and see what issues around health care disparities interest me

Focus your topic: I write down specific, topical issues about health care disparities that interest me:

  • specific disparities like gender, race, geography, socioeconomic status
  • specific effects like mortality and incidence rates, health care access or treatment inequalities
  • specific health issues like infant mortality, obesity

Write about what interests you: After doing some exploratory research and identifying different issues around health care disparities, I decide that I'm most interested in racial disparities in infant mortality and the influence health care policy has on these disparities.

Focused Research Topic:  Racial disparities in infant mortality and the influence of public health policies on these disparities

Focused Research Question: What public health policies affect racial disparities in infant mortality?

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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