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English 240 Research Guide - Dr. Kulavuz-Onal: Selecting a Research Topic

Consider these early on

From your Linguists' Corner Essay Guidelines: 

"For this assignment, you will write an argumentative paper on an issue related with languages and linguistics (if you are going for ESOL K-12 certification, then I suggest that you relate your topic to languages and linguistics issues surrounding ESOL student populations or ESOL learning). We will have covered a variety of topics over the duration of the course (especially from our book The 5-Minute Linguist). You can pick one of these topics, or you can pick your own topic, or you can pick a topic from this book that we have not covered (yes, unfortunately, we won’t be able to cover all the essays here, but they are all fun to read at your own time afterwards!)." ~Dr. Kulavuz-Onal


Choosing an interesting research topic is your first challenge. Here are some tips:

Choose a topic that personally interests you! The research process is more relevant if you care about your topic.

Narrow your topic to something manageable. If your topic is too broad, you will find too much information and not be able to focus.

Background reading can help you choose and limit the scope of your topic. 

Review the guidelines on topic selection outlined in your assignment.  Ask your professor or TA for suggestions.

Talk about research ideas with a friend. S/he may be able to help focus your topic by discussing issues that didn't occur to you at first.


Think of the who, what, when, where and why questions:

WHY did you choose the topic?  What interests you about it?  Do you have an opinion about the issues involved?

WHO are the information providers on this topic?  Who might publish information about it?  Who is affected by the topic?  Do you know of organizations or institutions affiliated with the topic?

WHAT are the major questions for this topic?  Is there a debate about the topic?  Are there a range of issues and viewpoints to consider?

WHERE is your topic important: at the local, national or international level?  Are there specific places affected by the topic?

WHEN is/was your topic important?  Is it a current event or an historical issue?  Do you want to compare your topic by time periods?