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ENGW 103/104

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Often, students will know what topic they want to research, but they won’t have a solid research question. A good research question will move beyond a topic and search for the significance or the impact of a particular topic. Having a question also helps you narrow your search as you seek our more specific information. 

In The Craft of Research, the authors suggest framing your topic this way:

I want to study _________, because I want to find out ___________, in order to help the reader understand _________________.

So how can you move from a broad topic to solid research question?

Read the conversation. See what scholars are saying about the topic and who or what is impacted. 

When choosing a topic or trying to narrow a topic to a research question, it can be helpful to start with popular sources—especially popular sources that engage and discuss current research. These sources can help you understand the significance or application of scholarly research—a task that can be difficult to novice readers of scholarly writing.

Here are some good starting places:

Newspapers are another great source to start browsing for a topic. Focus on editorials where writers will argue for a particular viewpoint--helping you see the multiple perspectives in a debate and the significance of a topic. 

These following sites focus on current events and debates; they are devoted to providing evidence to support multiple viewpoints. 

What about Wikipedia?

Wikipedia is an ok place to start your research. Often, the explanations are easy-to-understand, and, just like an academic encyclopedia, you may discover ways to narrow your topics. But Wikipedia is not a reliable source as there is no robust review system for the information, and anyone can add or remove information. 

Wikipedia does have one important use--you can often find other reliable sources in a Wikipedia entry. Look at the References section, and click on sources if hyperlinked or use Google Scholar to find a source if there is no link. ALWAYS read the original source to verify the accuracy of the information, and cite from the original source.