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Research and Writing (RaW): 1. Identify Your Topic

Guiding you through the process of finding information - from knowing that you need certain locating, evaluating, and effectively using said information.


1. Identify Your Topic


  • Be sure to read and understand the assignment

  • Ask your instructor if you need clarification

Think of Topics
  • What interests you and would make your assignment easier to tackle? You'll be devoting lots of time to completing the assignment, so it's important to make it less of a "chore" by choosing a topic that stimulates you.

  • Consider a topic that is suitable for the assignment and that will enable you to easily write the required length. If your topic is too broad, you may be finding too much information. If your topic is too narrow, you may not be finding enough information. Flexibility, in this sense, is essential, as you may need to change your topic once or twice.

  • Identify keywords (and synonyms) that relate to what you're researching.

    • If you're writing about leprosy in Hawaii, you could also search for the following:

      • Hawaii leprosy settlements

      • Kalaupapa history

      • Kalaupapa 1860-1960

      • Hawaii Lepers 1860-1960

      • Father Damien in Hawaii

Refining Your Topic

If you're struggling with the amount of information you're receiving (too much or too little) during the next few steps, you may need to consider refining your topic and starting over.

  • Is there too much information on your topic?
    • If so, you may need to narrow your topic. Consider the following:
      • Are you interested in a specific time period?
      • Could you focus on a geographic region?
      • What about the topic, specifically, interests you? (e.g. a specific person or the psychological impact)
  • Are you having trouble finding information about your topic?
    • If so, you may need to broaden your topic. Consider the following:
      • Lengthen time periods or ranges (e.g. sixties not 1965, elementary school not first grade)
      • Think about the broader implications of your topic (e.g. instead of looking into abortion rates for high schoolers, you could look at legislature limiting women's rights to birth control)
      • Expand any geographic areas (e.g. United States instead of Hawai'i)