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ESOL 1312: Research & Critical Writing : Choose a Topic

Picking a Topic

If you are having problems picking a topic:

1. Brainstorm. Think of  few possibilities that fit the assignment.

Online tools to brainstorm: Spicynodes , Diagramly and Bubblus

2. Pick a topic that interest you. You'll be spending time reading and thinking about it, so it should be something that interests you.

3. Make sure your topic matches the scope of the assignment. Reread the assignment and if you're not sure, check with your instructor. 

Find Background Information

Background information helps you understand and  narrow your project's topics better.  Encyclopedias, dictionaries, class textbooks and books are great sources for background information. They provide you with:

  • brief overviews of topics
  • definitions of terms in the discipline
  •  key names, events, and terms related to the topic
  • introductory information and select bibliography to find further information


A good database to find background information is Gale Virtual Referece Library.

Develop a Research Question & Research Statement

Once you know more about your topic you want to develop a research question & research statement. The tutorial below form LION: Library Information Online Network  guides you on how to develop a good research question and research statement.

Generating Key Terms from your Research Statement

Once you have developed a research question/research statement you need to generate key terms to use in searches.  Brake down your research question/statement into concepts and generate key terms to use. Make a list or chart to keep track of terms related to your topic as you start searching for information.  Think of synonyms and other terms that can help your capture your key concepts and as you are searching make notes of  which terms are useful and which ones are not.

Opposing Viewpoints In Context

A great database that can help you decide on a topic is Opposing Viewpoints in Context.  This database provides full text online access to a multidisciplinary social issues and controversies book series from Gale which include pro and con viewpoint articles to give you ideas on topics for assigments.

Gale Virtual Reference Library

Gale Virtual Reference Library  provides access to a large and varied collection of electronic reference books published by Gale such as dictionaries and encyclopedias.   

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