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WR 123: Written Reasoning in the Context of Research

Resources for all sections of Writing 123 College Composition III courses at the University of Oregon

Step 1 - Start with a Research Question

Starting with a research question means approaching your research with curiosity and an open mind. You should let your question guide you both in practical terms of helping you come up with search terms (keywords) as well as in avoiding bias by assuming you know the outcome or answer.

Check out this tutorial from Arizona State Libraries to get started:

What is a "Question at Issue"?

A "Question at Issue" is a special type of research question that has the following characteristics: 

3 Hallmarks of a Good Question at Issue 6 Types of Questions
  1. It must be relevant to your audience
  2. It must be debatable
  3. It must be strong and specific
  • Questions of fact
  • Questions of interpretation
  • Questions of consequence
  • Questions of definition
  • Questions of value 
  • Questions of policy

Finding a topic

Getting Started 

  • Make sure you understand your assignment. Talk to your professor or graduate assistant if you have any questions.
  • Think about your interests. What would you like to spend time learning more about? Write down a list of keywords and phrases that interest you.
  • Use a topic ideas database such as CQ Researcher or Opposing Viewpoints in Context (Gale). Read current periodicals, browse the internet, and check out reference resources and encyclopedias such as Gale Virtual Reference Library
  • Be careful not to pick a topic too narrow or too broad. You might not be able to find enough relevant information or you might be overwhelmed with too much information. As you start your research, you might need to adjust your topic. See below for narrowing/broadening tips.
  • Check out the Research Guide for your subject area, which will include links to helpful resources commonly used by researchers. Our subject specialist librarians create these guides -- contact yours with questions and to get personalized help with your research. 
Databases:

Choosing Your Topic is Research (Video Tutorial)

Watch this short video from NC State University Libraries about choosing a research topic.

Step 1 - Pause to Reflect

Step one not only requires that you come up wth a research question or topic that is narrow enough to explore for an undergraduate research paper, but it also requires that you consider what type of information you will need to find in order to answer your research question.

  1. Is your topic so large you could write a whole book or PhD thesis on it? If so, you should try to narrow your topic down to something manageable within the time you have and the number of pages or words your instructor is requiring.
  2. Is your topic so specific that you can't find information about it? Go to step 3 to learn how to search more strategically and broaden your search out a bit.
  3. Do you need some basic facts, dates, or names of historical people or specific theories? If so, go on to step 2: Find Background Information.
  4. When you are ready, go to step 3 to learn how and where to search for information on your topic.

Mt Hood reflected in Mirror Lake, Oregon.

 Mount Hood reflected in Mirror Lake, Oregon, USA. Image in Public Domain.

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