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ENGL U101 - Composition I - Jane Addison: Finding a Topic


Developing a Topic Interest: Choose something you’ll enjoy researching and writing about. Scope” Consider the breadth and depth of the topic, Avoid topics that are too big or too small. Time: Pick a topic you can successfully address in the given amount of time. Clarity:” Know what you are looking for, refine and adjust as needed.  When in doubt ask a librarian. Assignment: follow the direction from your professor on topic and paper requirements.

Deciding on a Topic

  • READ your assignment!  Many times your professor has told you what topics are acceptable and which ones are forbidden or overdone such as gun control or abortion. Also, try your textbook or suggested reading from the professor for ideas.
  • Choose a topic that interests you (and your professor/readers), it is easier to write about something that interests you than something you find boring.
  • If your paper is an argumentative/persuasive paper you need to pick a topic that is controversial, one that has many sides or views to the topic. Be cautious of picking a topic you are TOO passionate about because you may not be willing to see all sides of the topic.
  • Watch or Read the news to find out what is going on in your Town, State, Country or the World.
  • Still, stumped?  Look at the listing of Topic Finder Websites that include news sites, pro/con websites, statistics and trending topics for ideas.
  • Google the topic, is there any information on the topic?
    • Make a list of words, names, and important information about the topic to be used in future searching​
  • Search a database for articles - Choose a topic scholars have written about (many research papers require that you cite scholarly sources)
  • Choose a topic appropriate to the length of your paper (if you find tons of articles it usually indicates you need to narrow your topic)
    • remember many topics are very broad but you can choose just a small portion of the main topic. For example, immigration is a huge topic but the use of immigrants in agricultural labor is a specific piece of the big topic.
  • Ask for help--both your professor and librarians are great resources to help narrow topics

Be flexible with your topics

Narrowing Your Topic

Turn your topic into a question. For example "What are the communication differences between men and women?" Who  Who are you talking about? Why should the reader know about them? Also, who is publishing the articles you are looking at? Who is doing the research on your topic? Where  Where is your topic being researched? Where is your topic relevant? Where are people talking about your topic? Are there specific places where your topic takes place or influences? When  When is your assignment due? When did the majority of research on your topic get published (especially important in the sciences)? Are you in a position to compare historical and contemporary information? Why  Why is your topic being researched? Is it an important, urgent issue? Why do you like your topic? Why do you want to do research on it? What about it is interesting to you? How  How are you going to do your research? How will you phrase your thesis or research question? How will you focus your topic? Brainstorm possible words related to the topic (this is a good time to Google your topic to find new words). For example: For the topic above related words could include "sex, gender differences, similarities, contrast, males, females..." Find background information after a good Googleing take those key words into Encyclopedias, and other reference materials to find quality background information on the topic

3 Rhetorical appeals infographic

the 3 rhetorical appeals Ethos Pathos and logos

Tutorials & Videos

California State University San Bernardino John M. Pfau Library

Wilfrid Laurier University Library