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There are many ways to generate a good research topic. It helps if you are writing about a topic that interests you. Here are some ways to think about a topic:
- Brainstorming: write down all the words that come to mind or look up a word in a good thesaurus or dictionary. It helps to do this with a class mate. Some sources include The Oxford English Dictionary (online), The Cambridge Thesaurus of American English (ebook) and Roget II.
- Free writing: Write down all the ideas that come to you. Don't worry about grammar or punctuation. If you are better at speaking than writing, try recording your ideas.
- Draw a picture: Sketch out any ideas you have about your topic.
- Clustering: write your main idea in the center, then write information about that idea around the topic. This may help you refine your topic.
- Browse sources: Do a keyword search in the library catalog or article databases like Academic Search Complete to see how others have treated the topic, then browse those sources for ideas.
- Library resources: Use a database such as CQ Researcher or Issues & Controversies to browse current topics.
A rhetorical précis analyzes the content (the what) and the delivery (the how) of a specific item of spoken or written discourse. See Margaret Woodworth's article The Rhetorical Précis for more details on this method of summarizing a work's content. Your instructor may ask you to analyze a scholarly journal article using this method. Your analysis should answer these questions:
- What is the purpose of the text?
- How is that purpose achieved in the text?
Components of a rhetorical analysis include:
- The purpose of the text and any conflicts you find.
- The primary audience of the text.
- The author's stance toward the topic: favorable, critical, or neutral.
- Strategies used by the author to achieve the article's purpose: tone, word choice, sentence structure, design, choice of evidence.
Annotated Bibliographies are often part of a research assignment. What is an annotated bibliography?
- It's a list of sources used in your paper in alphabetical order following the style recommended by your instructor.
- Each entry includes a summary of the content of the work and informs the reader of the importance of the work in the context of your research.
Use bibliographies you find in books and articles to help you find other sources. See How to Prepare an Annotated Bibliography for further tips.
Your instructor may ask you to write an argumentative essay supported by library resources, such as scholarly books and articles. In your thesis you must make a claim that is supported by your research. See the Critical Thinking and Argument chapter of The Everday Writer for details. Here are some important parts of an argumentative essay:
- An introduction that states your claim in the form of an explicit thesis statement.
- Support of your claim in the body of your paper in the form of reasoning, evidence from reliable sources, and effective appeals to your audience.
- Alternative points of view and other valid arguments found in your research.
- A clear, organized structure that readers can follow easily.
- A conclusion that summarizes your argument, elaborates on the implications of your thesis, and ends with a strong appeal to your audience.
What is a Rhetorical Analysis?
What's an Annotated Bibliography?
How To Write an Argumentative Essay