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Expository Writing (Warren)  

Last Updated: Mar 31, 2017 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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How Do I Choose a Good Research Topic?

Aspects of choosing a good topic: 

1. Does your topic meet the requrements of the assignment mentioned in the syllabus?

Deciding on a topic that fits the criteria of the assignment means picking up on solid authors in your text and other background readings. Note credentials of each author. Use topics discussed in class. Research topics can be inspired by aspects of these topics or others mentioned in the text.

A good habit for topic discovery is to scan credible, well-established news sites for current topics that are of interest to you. Google News, New York Times, CNN or NPR are good for browsing current topics. If the topic has been in the news recently you are assured that there will be ample resources. Here are some links to reputable news sources:


New York Times


Google News

You may also wish to note the list of news databases and links found under "Finding Articles." 

2. Your topic should be something you care about or is interesting to you. You are voicing a contribution to the conversation about this issue. Your voice matters so it should be something that is meaningful to you.

3. Ask yourself: Is the topic too broad? too narrow? Consider the specific focus or scope of a broader topic.  If the topic is "social media and business" you might ask what kind of social media? What kind of business or industry? Marketing? Sales? What time period? What countries? What population-teens, young adults? 

4. If you don't know much about a topic, reconsider your choice or revise the perspective to cover an angle that is searchable and know-able. For example:  If your initial question is: What changes in Muslim lifestyles occurred after 9/11?  Islam is not monolithic. There are variables within the culture and religion. Consider what specific Muslim lifestyle are you searching? Sunni? Shia? Wahabi? Narrowed to a particular country? Are you conversant enough in Muslim lifestyle to give an accurate assessment of this question? An alteration of this topic might be: What are perceptions of Muslims by Americans in the past 10 years, post 9/11?  OR What are results of dialogues between Christians and Muslims post 9/11?

Background research will help you develop your topic and focus in more appropriate ways. Though this seems like extra work, it is actually a vital, time-saving step. Knowing more about your topic's background can only help you develop a more effective topic, and therefore, research paper. See the tab under Reference Resources.



    The temptation to use Wikipedia is a strong one. This YouTube video give a framework for higher order thinking regarding the sources to use.


    60 Minutes: How Fake News Becomes A Popular, Trending Topic

    Have you ever wondered how information becomes viral? This recent 60 Minutes segment interviews people who create false stories and how they spread, making the rest of wonder what is true or not true.



    Make a Concept Map

    Image result for knitting

    If my topic were the importance of the art and craft of knitting as a social, global activity that develops interconnectedness of community life, I might develop a concept map of my topic to get started. You can do the same for your topic. Here is an example.

    Kinds of Sources to Use by Format

    1.  One of the first things to think about is what are the kinds of sources to use in writing a research paper?

    • Reference/background sources
    • Books or e-books
    • Articles: academic journals
    • Articles: non-scholarly, popular magazines, newspapers
    • Statistics or other supporting materials

    Start with Zondervan Library tools and resources. Why? These will steer you to solid research on your topic. This guide will point to finding all of these formats. 

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    Linda Lambert
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