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ENG101 - Professor Sharmin

Choose Your Research Topic

Choosing a research topic can be tricky. Here are some tips to help you get started with selecting and developing your topic.

Brainstorm - Brainstorm different areas of interest and topic ideas. You can check the following places for inspiration.

  • Your class syllabus and class readings - looks for themes and ideas that interest you
  • Check the news and run a web search - browse online for current events or content that seems interesting
  • Browse our library databases - test out topic ideas and see what you discover

Explore and test out your topic idea - try searching for your topic online and in library databases to see what you find. Are you finding information that you can use for your research assignment? Is what you are finding interesting to you?

Scope your topic - sometimes a topic can be too broad or too narrow to start. Refine your topic with these tips

  • Narrow topics - if you aren't finding information, think about ways to broaden or expand your idea. What are some larger themes or concepts that you could explore in your topic?
  • Broad topics - if you are overwhelmed with search results and feel that your sources are all over the place, think about how you can narrow things down. Is there a specific detail, place, person, event, etc. that you can focus on for your research?

Talk to an expert - research which faculty members and graduate students at Emory specialize in the area you are researching. Reach out via email and see if they have the time to chat with you about resources, texts, or authors you should look into while you are researching your topic. While they may not be able to read your research proposal they will be able to recommend additional reading to help you develop your research topic.

Think outside of Emory - try researching museums in the greater Atlanta area that may have exhibits relevant to your research topic. For example, the Atlanta Center for Civil and Human Rights or the Atlanta History Center.

Research Best Practices

We conduct research for a variety of reasons, and our final research products can take many different forms. From research papers, to presentations, to op-eds, to blog posts, to websites, to digital exhibits, etc. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you work on a research project.

  • Research is iterative - you might have to repeat steps, go back and refine your topic, run a variety of searches to find sources. It can be a lengthy and at times messy process!
  • Think about your deliverable and your audience - what are you creating and who are you creating it for? The types of sources you use, and how you put your sources together, can vary depending on whether or not you are writing a scholarly paper or creating an online exhibit.
  • Stay organized - staying organized can ensure that you are keeping track of your various sources and ideas, and can help you avoid plagiarism by making sure that you have the information you need to cite your sources properly.

Research assignments often occur in stages, such as beginning with a proposal or an annotated bibliography. For more information on annotated bibliographies, and how they can help you with your research assignment, see this guide from Purdue OWL.

Picking Your Topic Is Research Video

This video was created by the NCSU Libraries and is published under a Creative Commons 3.0 BY-NC-SA US license.