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Step 2: Refining and Focusing Your Topic

State your topic in the form of a question.

For instance, instead of saying that you want to do a paper on stem cell research, frame the topic in the form of a specific question, such as:

  • What are the scientific and ethical issues of using stem cells taken from discarded embryos?
  • What is the position of the Catholic Church on using stem cells taken from discarded embryos for scientific research?

If you need help forming a question, try reading an article or two on your topic from a scholarly journal (See the "Journals" tab under your subject), searching in an appropriate database and reviewing some of the article titles and abstracts, or skimming an encyclopedia article on the topic. (Find online encyclopedias here.)

Some other questions to ask yourself (from QuickStudy at the University of Minnesota Libraries):

  • What is the main idea of my paper?
  • What specific ideas am I trying to describe, explain, or prove?
  • What academic discipline (subject area) does my topic fit into?
  • What specific aspect of the topic do I wish to consider?

 


Last Modified: Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009