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Developing a Topic: Constructing a Topic

Learn the steps in developing a research topic before you start writing your paper.

Writing a research paper is an essential skill to learn during your college career. The first step in writing any paper is to choose a topic. This can sometimes feel like a daunting task! By breaking the process down into steps, coming up with a topic can be a very manageable process.

Step 1: Identify Your Areas of Interest

Writing your paper will go much more smoothly if you choose a subject you are interested in, rather than whatever seems easiest. Even if you are limited to a certain subject, try to find an aspect of it that is personally relevant or interesting. Always check with your instructor to make sure your topic is acceptable before you begin researching!

If you are interested in... ...and you have to write a paper for... Consider writing a paper about:
Here are some examples:
Video games Psychology How video games affect brain development
Minority groups English How Shakespeare portrays Jewish people
Social media Administration of Justice How social media affects crime prevention
Recreational drugs Health The effects of medical marijuana on cancer
Divorce Child Development How children are affected by divorced parents


Step 2: Construct Your Topic

The ultimate goal of your paper is to answer a question. The answer to your question will become your thesis statement.

Subject Question Answer/Thesis (support with research!)
Here are some examples:
Video games How do video games affect brain development? Video games improve cognitive development skills.
Minority groups How does Shakespeare portray Jewish people? Shakespeare stereotypes Jewish characters but eventually humanizes them by the end.
Social media How does social media affect crime prevention? Social media helps police work with citizens to prevent crimes.
Recreational drugs Is medical marijuana good for you? Medical marijuana can help lessen pain in some cases.
Divorce How are children affected by divorced parents? Children of divorced parents have fewer problems when both parents remain involved in their lives.

Notice some of these questions are very broad, vague, or not easily answered. We will next look at ways to rework the topics into something more academic that we can write about.

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