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Students: Finding a Topic

STEP 1: Investigate and Analyze the Assignment

* Don't waste time diving into research until you ask:

  1. Is it a report?
  2. Is it an analytical paper?
  3. Is it an argumentative paper?

* Type of assignment will determine what kind of research you need to do & how you need to organize & present that research in your paper. 

  1. Basic report (describe and summarize
    1. Find info on the topic and present
  2. Analytical Paper (explain, compare, and contrast)
    1. Explore multiple aspects of topic & present your research findings without attempting to persuade the reader to take a stand
  3. Argumentative Paper (argue, persuade, and evaluate)
    1. Take a "stand" on a particular issue in your topic & use your research to support your argument

Choosing a Topic

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STEP 2: Identifying a topic

* What SHOULD you choose for a topic? 

  1. Choose something that interests you. 
  2. Even if the professor assigns you a topic - you can choose an aspect of that topic that interests you.



Now, ask your WHY is your topic IMPORTANT

List three to four reasons

This can help you highlight areas of focus for your paper

STEP 3: Writing a working thesis statement

* Plan to revise it several times as you learn more about your topic

  1. Keeps you focused
  2. Tells what its about 


Poor thesis statement 

  • too vague and broad
  • too local & narrow opinions

Forming your Research Question 

  • A good working thesis statement can often be converted into a question
  • The question cannot be answered with a simple "YES" or "NO"
  • The "search" of research efforts is to find sources that answer your research question 

STEP 4: Searching for Information

* Some topics may be 

  • too current
  • too obscure

for coverage in academic journals. 

- BE flexible with the topic, thesis statement, & research question


Variety of information sources

  • encyclopedias, dictionaries, atlases, & handbooks
  • Newspapers, journals, & magazines
  • books
  • internet: statistics, government, & nonprofit websites



  • books 
  • articles
  • databases
  • newspapers
  • historical information
  • maps
  • videos 
  • full-text online resources
  • music 
Oglala Lakota College Woksape Tipi Library Physical Address: 3 Mile Creek Rd Kyle, SD 57752 Mailing Address: PO Box 310 Kyle, SD 57752 Phone: 1-(605)-455-6069