Your instructors may assign a topic for your research paper, but very often your instructor may let you choose your own topic within a certain area of the course you are taking. To select a topic for your research paper, you need to choose a subject that interests you as well as to consider the availability of the resources.
Sources that can help you select research topics:
Once you have decided on a topic for your paper, you need to make sure your topic is neither too broad nor too narrow and your research question can be researched. For example, “school integration” is a topic. You need to ask a question or form a statement about the school integration, such as:
Some people view Asian Americans as a successful minority that excels in education.
These questions or statements can help you narrow down a general subject area into a manageable topic that focuses on a clearly identified issue so that you can examine it thoroughly within the allotted time and space. Some of the methods you can use to narrow down your topics are:
Once you have a focused topic (normally in a question or statement format), you can mark keywords and develop alternate words and ready to use them to conduct searches in library catalogs or databases. Using the example above, we can develop a list of keywords:
Question or Statement
In her article "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior" (the Wall Street Journal, Jan. 8, 2011), Amy Chua stereotyped that not only most Asian Americans are overachieving, but also that their high achievements are due to overbearing parents.
First, we need to understand what primary and secondary sources are.
Primary sources provide first-hand testimony or direct evidence concerning a topic under investigation. They are created by witnesses or recorders who experienced the events or conditions being documented. Often these sources are created at the time when the events or conditions are occurring, but primary sources can also include autobiographies, memoirs, and oral histories recorded later. Primary sources are characterized by their content, regardless of whether they are available in original format, in microfilm/microfiche, in digital format, or in published format. (Primary Sources at Yale: http://www.yale.edu/collections_collaborative/primarysources/primarysources.html)
To find more information about primary sources, how to find primary sources, go to Primary Source Guide.
Secondary Sources are materials that digest, analyze, evaluate and interpret inforamtion contained within primary sources or other secondary sources. Examples of secondary sources are:
You want to find a list of secondary source materials relevant to your topic, or if necessary, you need to conduct a literature review to get a list of essential books and articles for your topic. The purposes of starting your research with secondary sources are:
Subject encyclopedias, text book, databases, and CLIO Notes in America: History & Life and Historical Abstracts are all good places to start your secondary sources research.
Watch a Boolean Logic Video at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7tm-sDKCnO4