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Research Project

Use this in whole or in part to guide you in creating a great research project.

Go from Topic to Thesis

This video will help you select a manageable topic and then develop that topic into a thesis statement.

Be Flexible

It is common to modify your topic during the research process. You can never be sure of what you may find. You may find too much and need to narrow your focus, or too little and need to broaden your focus. This is a normal part of the research process. When researching, you may not wish to change your topic, but you may decide that some other aspect of the topic is more interesting or manageable.

Once you have chosen a general topic idea the next step is to refine your topic and ultimately to formulate a research question.

Consider the points below to keep your research focused and on track.  If you continue to have difficulties defining a topic talk to your instructor or a librarian.

Narrow Your Research

Once you have the topic you would like to research, the next step is forming your research question. Your research question should be focused and specific.  The result should also be a question for which there are two or more possible answers. See some examples below:

Broad Topic >  Narrowed Topic > Focused Topic > Research Question
Women's health Women & cancer Women smokers & breast cancer Is there a connection between cigarette smoking
and breast cancer risk?
Computer games Computer game violence Computer game violence & children How does violence in computer games affect children?
Eating disorders Teens & eating disorders Teen peer pressure & bulimia

What role, if any, does peer pressure play in the
development of bulimia in teens?

Limit Your Topic

A topic will be very difficult to research if it is too broad or narrow. One way to narrow a broad topic is to assign limits to what you will cover. Some common ways to limit a topic are listed below using the broad topic, "the environment" as an example.

Limiter Example
geographical area What environmental issues are most important in the Southwestern United States
culture How does the environment fit into the Navajo world view?
time frame What are the most prominent environmental issues of the last 10 years?
discipline How does environmental awareness effect business practices today?
population group What are the effects of air pollution on senior citizens?

Check Assignment Guidelines

Before selecting your topic, make sure you know what your final project should look like. Each instructor will probably have different assignment requirements so be sure to read your assignment thoroughly and check for specific guidelines concerning:

  • the number of sources you are required to use
  • the kinds of sources you are able to use - books vs. web sites vs. journal articles or a variety
  • the type of research you are being asked to conduct - original research or a review of what research has been done
  • the length of your final project - two pages, ten pages, etc. or an informal, five-minute presentation
  • the depth of your project - an overview of the subject or an in-depth and focused coverage of a specific aspect
  • the scope you are required to cover - an historical summary, a report of current developments or an argument.

Your instructor will probably provide specific requirements for your assignment. If not, the table below may provide a rough guide.

Assigned Length of Research Paper or Project Suggested Number of Sources
1-2 page paper
2-3 sources
3-5 page paper
4-8 sources
Annotated bibliography
6-15 sources
10-15 page research paper
12-20 sources
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