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Step 1: Choose & Develop a Topic


CHOOSE A TOPIC

 

Get topic ideas:

CQ Researcher: Contains reports on current events and issues.

Opposing Viewpoints in Context: Provides pro/con discussions of hot topics, along with supporting material.

Idea Generator (from Old Dominion University): Browse through a variety of paper topics. 

Also:




FOCUS YOUR TOPIC
 

NARROW your topic if it's too general. Limit your topic by focusing on a particular aspect:
  • timeframe (the first year of the war)
  • category of people (plantation owners, slaves, factory workers, etc.
  • specific event (Battles at Appomatox, Antietam, etc.)
  • place (Memphis, the South, Appalachia, etc.)
Another solution is to add another topic to your original topic. For instance: "music and the Civil War" or "religion and the Civil War"
B R O A D E N your topic if it's too specific. For instance, you might have trouble finding information about hazing in Southern fraternities. Quick fix? Expand your topic.

Do this by:
  • looking for parallels and wider categories (peer pressure among college students)
  • choosing an alternate focus (drug and alcohol use instead of hazing)
  • choosing an alternate place (the entire United States instead of the South)
  • choosing an alternate person or group (fraternities and sororities, young adults, etc.)


DEVELOP KEYWORDS

 

Step 1: List the key concepts that describe your topic (look at words in your essay question or research topic).

Example:

Step 2: List synonyms or related terms (check an encyclopedia to find related terms, and a thesaurus to find synonyms).

Keyword
Cinderella
related terms
fairy tales, folk tales
variations
synonym
versions
cultures
related term
multicultural

TIP: While doing your research, keep a list of keywords and related terms handy. Try different combinations of words in your searches, and you'll get better results.