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POSC 300: Assignment and Keywords


Research brainstorming assignment

In 2-3 pages, outline what you're interested in researching and how you want to go about researching it. 

  • What is the general topic? Why is it important, interesting, etc.?
  • What are some possible questions that are worth asking about this topic? Have these questions already been asked?
  • What kinds of evidence would you need to answer these questions? Where can you find this evidence? 
  • What will give you confidence in this evidence (whatever it turns out to be)?

Prospectus, rough draft

In 12-15 pages, develop your prospectus.  Structure your draft in the following way:

  • Introduction (1-2 pages)
    • General topic
    • Why is it important?
    • What more do we need to know about this topic?
    • Research question
    • Possible answers to your research question 
  • Literature review (4-5 pages)
    • How have other authors talked about your topic?
    • Have other authors tried to answer your research question? What is lacking in their answers?
    • How would your project contribute to the literature?
    • If no one else has posed your research question, then you need to justify why it needs to be asked in the first place.
  • Methodology (6-7 pages)
    • Choose a methodology and its corresponding methods from among those that we have covered (some can be combined, but not others).
    • How would this methodology enable you to answer your research question?
    • Discuss the specific evidence that you would need to collect and analyze.
    • Why would other methodologies not allow you to answer your research question?
  • Conclusion (2-3 pages)
    • Provide a reasonable timeline for completing the project
    • Discuss practical, methodological, ethical, etc. challenges that you would need to overcome

Start With Keywords

Research Question: "How does media affect voting in young people?"

The first step is to identify the most important parts of the question, the keywords, that get to the base of what we what to research.

Keywords:   media    voting    young people

Now we need to brainstorm some of the different ways we can think about these key concepts. Those alternate keywords can be synonyms, broader, or more narrow terms.

Media might generate a list like: Voting might generate a list like:

And young people might generate a list like this:



talk shows


social media




social networking


political campaigns




civic engagement




college students

university students


high school students


young adults


18-24 years old

Television is one type of media, and a talk show is one type of television program; the terms get more narrow. Civic engagement is a broader category under which voting might rest. And youth is just another way of saying young people. All of these are legitimate ways of coming up with alternate keywords. You never know which one will be best for a particular database or website until you start looking! What works well in one, might not go over very well in another.

You can use the worksheet below to explore options for your own topic.