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ENG 201: Getting Started

Going from an idea to a TOPIC

What's the difference?

Ideas. Topics. Research Questions. Theses. They're all the same thing, right? Not at all! They're really more like steps up a ladder, and your paper assignments will help you know what step you need at each point in the writing process.

  • Ideas are big, broad, and poorly defined. They are always where you will start, but you can't write an effective paper on an idea.
  • Topics are refined and defined. They will help you navigate through background sources.
  • Research Questions are very specific and explore the "how" or "what" of a topic. They are open to exploration within the topic and may have multiple sides represented.
  • Theses are specific, well-defined claims on a topic. They argue for a specific side or action from a research question.

Keywords & Search Techniques

Not finding enough on your topic? Not finding anything on your topic? Are you using the best keywords and concepts to describe what you're looking for?

Brainstorming the different words and phrases used to describe your topic is one the most helpful things you can do to start your research. It gets you really thinking about your topic and the ways it can be approached.

If you're having trouble getting the storm started, try reading a few encyclopedia articles. Look for words or phrases that are repeated in the article and the different ways they are described there. Also check out the Reference List or Works Cited for more sources on topic.

Now check out these short videos to see how to enter your keywords and phrases into searches for maximum success.