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English 1000 for Librarians: Notes

English 1000

Lecture Notes for LO1

Lecture notes you can use "out of the box" or customize for your classes.



Choosing an interesting topic can be challenging especially if your instructor gives you an "open topic" or says "write about ANYTHING!"

Ask:  How do you select a topic? 

A good topic may be one that you:

  • Find interesting
  • Know something about but want to know more
  • Find intellectually engaging; worth pursuing
  • Heard on the news
  • Read in your textbook and other class readings
  • Asked your professor or TA for suggestions
  • Discovered from talking about research ideas with classmates.  They may suggest issues/opinions that you may not have occurred to you.
The following sources are great for generating topic ideas:


Students often start with a broad topic such as Global Warming, Immigration, Eating Disorders, Environment, etc.

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

Narrow your topic to something manageable... [pick and choose from among these.]

  • Background reading in encyclopedias can help you choose and limit the scope of your topic
  • Doing quick searches on your broad topic will reveal what's already been done and help narrow the focus.
  • Brainstorm the broad topic by creating a concept map. [A concept map is a visual display of concepts and relationships among ideas].  You may find some aspect of the topic you would like to explore.  Do concept map activity here.
  • Think of concepts associated with or related to your topic; also think of narrower facets, different angles to your topic.
  • List what you already know and add questions you have about the topic.  Focus on those you find most  interesting.
  • You can narrow you topic by applying one or more of these limiters:

       Time Frame (current, historical, 60s, 70s, 80s, World War II)
       Place/Geographic region (United States)
       Person or Population or Age group (Immigrants, elderly, teenagers, college students, disabled)
       Aspect/Environment (Higher Education)

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

WHITEBOARD EXAMPLE: Broad Topic: Eating Disoders [Ask: Who, What, When, Where, Why]

WHO: (Population) Age, Gender, Race, Ethnicity
Topic example: Eating disorders in elderly asian females

WHAT: (Types) Anorexia, Bulimia, Compulsive Eating
Topic example: Anorexia and female college students

WHEN: (Time Frame) Current/Historical view; Period of Life
Topic example: Bulimia in college students

WHERE: (Places---local, national, international) States/Regions, Countries
Topic example: Cultural implications of eating disorders in Asia.

WHY: (Evaluate) Causes, treatment, outcomes
Topic example: Successful methods for treatment of compulsive eating disorders

Mix n Match elements that you derive by asking questions (Who, what, When, etc.) until you find an interesting topic.  

Causes and treatment (why) of anorexia nervosa (what) in college students (who)
Prevalence of Bulimia in teenage males in the U.S.
Changes in treatment of compulsive overeaters, 1950 to present.



Research usually starts with a question, and formulating that question can be the hardest part of the process.

A research question is what you really want to find/discover.  It is a clear, focused, concise, complex, and arguable question around which you center the research.
A thesis statement is a proposed answer to a research question.

State your research topic as a question or write out your research topic as a thesis statement.

A research question is the:
         Organizing element for the topic   
         Focuses the search into a narrow topic area
         Guides your literature search

Sample Research Question: How has Higher Education contributed to the sucess of immigrants in the United States?

Once you have a research question, you are not stuck with it.  Expect to adjust and/or refocus your research question once you start researching.  You may find that there is not enough information to adequately answer the question or you may find a different angle on your topic that you may find more interesting.  Be flexible and expect change.