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Develop a Focus

Develop a manageable focus by creating a useful research question. Read your assignment carefully, and re-read it whenever necessary to make sure your topic is appropriate for the assignment. Is your topic too small and specific, or is it too broad and unwieldy? Researching an overly narrow topic will have too few sources devoted to it, whereas researching an overly broad topic can lead to frustration because of too many sources. Consider the differences among the following topics: the global consequences of climate change (too big), the effect of climate change on the anopheles mosquito (too small), and the effect of climate change on the spread of malaria (just right).

A good way to develop a manageable topic is by creating an interesting question related to your assignment that you can answer within the page requirement. For example, a student writing a six-to-eight page research paper on any aspect of Eastern religion might want to ask: “Does Buddhism have anything useful to offer a 21st century American college student?” Choosing a focused question within a broad research assignment, a question you actually want to answer, makes researching not only more manageable but more compelling.

Next, go to the library.


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