What Will You Research and Write About?

Often your instructor will assign a topic, but if not, you can get ideas for interesting topics from many sources such as:

  • The textbook for your class.
  • Journals published in the discipline.
  • Books published about your topic of interest.
  • The News:
    • National newspapers like the New York Times
    • Local papers such as the Gazette Times
    • News on television
    • News Web sites
  • The Contemporary Issues section of Reference

Once you have decided on a broad topic, your next step will be to explore your topic to identify specific issues you want to learn more about. A good beginning for this exploration is to gather background information about the topic. What sorts of background questions will you need to answer? Here's an example of a topic that we will follow throughout this tutorial.

  • Example: I want to write about endangered species.
  • Some questions I might want to answer are:
    • What are the laws about endangered species?
    • Why were the laws passed?
    • When was the first endangered species law passed?
    • What animals and plants were on the original endangered species list? Which are on it now?
    • What are the names of some people who have been associated with these lists and/or laws?

Although these may not be the best or only questions for this topic, they are the sort of questions one would want to start thinking about. How will the answers be found?