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Detailed Research Guide: Develop & Narrow Topic

Use this guide to access multidisciplinary databases for your information needs.

3 Step "From Topic to Research Focus" formula

After using Background Resources, you should be able to fill out the following "From Topic to Research Focus" formula.  NOTE: This is NOT the same as your Thesis Statement.  Your Thesis Statement is a statement developed after you read Research Materials about your issue/question, determine your stance, and decide how you will present your attitude/angle/argument.

1)  I am researching ______________________________________ (topic)

2)  because I want to find out ______________________________(issue/question)

3)  in order to ________________________________ (application - So What? - Project/Audience/Purpose driven)


I am researching ways to teach English as a second language (topic)
because I want to find out the most effective strategies available (issue/question)
in order to prepare me to be a better teacher (application - purpose).

I am researching autism in children (topic)
because I want to find out how best to socially interact with them (issue/question)
in order to better accomplish my service learning experience. (application - project).

I am researching genetically modified foods (topic)
because I want to find out if they are nutritionally better than organic foods (issue/question)
in order to produce a brochure summarizing the issues for my Writing 150 class.(application - project).

(Adapted from:  Booth, W. C., Colomb, G. G. & Williams, J. M. (2008). The Craft of Research (3rd ed.) Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, p. 51-65.)

Organize Your Research Focus into Concepts

To prepare your Research Focus for database searching, use a chart like the chart below and organize it into 2 or 3 concepts. Add quotation marks around phrases; add the truncation symbol to the end of root words to retrieve multiple word endings. For example, the truncation symbol for Scholar Search databases is the asterisk * (for multiple characters) and the question mark ? (for single characters).

(Concept 1) _______________ OR ________________ OR ________________ (Synonymous terms dealing with Concept 1)

(Concept 2) _______________ OR ________________ OR ________________ (Synonymous terms dealing with Concept 2)

(Concept 3) _______________ OR ________________ OR ________________ (Synonymous terms dealing with Concept 3)

For example:

(Concept 1) "speech impairment*" OR "articulation impairment*"

(Concept 2) sibling* OR brother* OR sister*