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Assignment | Research Project ENGL 1301 (Khalaf): Getting Started

Prof. Paula Khalaf | ENGL 1301 | Fall 2020

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Forming a Research Question

While you know the topic you will be researching, you still need to narrow the topic and formulate a specific research question that you will answer.  

Organize Your Thoughts with a Mind Map

Mind maps are a great tool to help you organize your thoughts and see new information or connections that you might not have previously been aware of.  As you develop your mind map, narrow your topic down from a broad topic to a specific research question. You will use this research question, and the keywords you've identified on your mind map, to search the library databases for resources.  As you utilize the research databases, continue to fill in information on your mind map to help you see if there are gaps in your research that you need to address.

Example Mind Map - topic: Fake News

Topic, Research Question, Thesis

First, you develop and narrow down your topic -- the general idea of what you're going to be researching. From that, you need to develop your research question, i.e. what is the question you are attempting to answer by doing your research? This, in turn, will form the basis for your paper's thesis (your claim/argument/answer) which you'll explicitly state in your introduction.

From your central topic, you develop your research question(s) to investigate, and then finally develop a thesis statement which answers your chosen question.

Mind Map Process

Start off with your overall central topic: in this example, we're starting with Game of Thrones. What can you think of about that show? It's in the fantasy genre, it's adapted from a book series, it had a huge cast, it won awards, people liked (except when they didn't), it had highly-quality set design (except when it didn't)... and on and on.

You're trying to accumulate lots of ideas at this point! Big picture. Make connections, and write whatever comes to mind. When you start getting stuck, turn to Google, Credo Reference, and/or Wikipedia to get more ideas.

Once you've filled out the map of your topic a bit, look at where you have the most ideas: this is probably the strongest aspect of your topic, and what you should focus your research on.

All those other ideas? We're not going to use them. We want to deeply explore one narrow aspect of the big topic, not try to talk about everything to do with the big topic ever. (That's the job of probably a multi-volume book, not a short essay!)

It's important to still go through this process, though, even if we aren't using most of the ideas, because a) we have to see all this to figure out which thing we're targeting, and b) it still gives us context for how we actually understand the overall topic -- everything is connected! Plus, if we decide we hate our chosen topic, we can come back to drawing board and go another direction easily.

This end result of our mind map is the research topic we'd look into further for the paper: how the costumes were designed for the show and how they were used to reinforce aspects of the fictional cultures displayed. Now we can start targeting our research to just those aspects, either for the show in particular (probably web and news articles), but also more general resources about costume design that we can apply to what we've seen here.

Research Process

Research process steps, from narrowing your topic, developing your argument, and producing your drafts

Glossary of Terms

Resources: information that may be found in scholarly journal articles, newspaper articles, and popular magazines.

Keywords: terms related to your specific topic that you will use to search the databases. If you are not having luck with the keywords that you used, see what subject terms are used in a resource that you find - subject terms are a controlled vocabulary assigned to that article based on its topics.

Databases: information that is collected, organized, tagged, and has a search capability.