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ENG 111 - Writing and Inquiry: Find a Topic for College Papers

This course is designed to develop the ability to produce clear writing in a variety of genres and formats using a recursive process. Emphasis includes inquiry, analysis, effective use of rhetorical strategies, thesis development, audience awareness, and

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A-to-Z List | By Subject | By Type

Being Part of the Conversation

graphic of conversations bubbles

It's very important you spend time choosing your topic. Choose a topic that is academic enough to meet your instructor's criteria but isn't too big or small to discuss well. Look for topics where you can make several points to inform or persuade your reader. 


Topic Grid - Use the grid to think about keywords and how these can help narrow or expand your topic.
Topic Other Keywords People/Place Impact(s) Cause(s)
Dogs Canine Home Health Benefits Companionship
    Work Therapy Ability to calm
    Emergency crews Rescue Ability to detect


Personal Issue vs. Social Problem

Personal Issue - I like dogs.

Social Issue - Owning dogs can have many health benefits.

Social Issue with Supporting points - Dog ownership benefits include lower stress and lower blood pressure. Dog owners are also more active than non-dog owners (Zorthian, J. "More Evidence That Owning a Dog Is Really Good for You").

Zorthia, Julia. "More Evidence That Owning a Dog Is Really Good for You.", 24 July 2017. Retrieved from Accessed 3 July 2018.


Personal: I like Snapchat.

Social Issue: Snapchat is used mostly by teenagers.

Social Issue with Supporting Points: Snapchat, used mostly by teenagers, has a dangerous side which includes bullying, stalking, and the risk of social media addiction.

Your Turn. What are you interested in?

Examples of research questions:

  • Education: What impact has education had on society? How are girls educated in third world countries? What is the history of your school?
  • Race: My essay will discuss how racism affects a person financially, socially, emotionally, and psychologically. What kinds of training do teachers have for understanding a diverse student body? What is the history of race in your county?
  • Health: Is exercise necessary to maintain a healthy body? What is the effect of obesity on the armed forces? How does good health practices affect diabetes?
  • Technology: How has the Internet changed education? How can drones be used by the military? What are positives and negatives of social media?
  • Animals: How do animals grieve? What is the process to domesticate wild animals? What is being done about elephant poaching?
  • Weather: How is global warming affecting the military? What is the history of hurricane tracking? 
  • History: What are the Opium Wars? Who was Stalin? How did printing affect the Protestant Reformation?
  • Other categories include GlobalizationBusinessSecurityLiterature and Women's Issues

List of Databases (A to Z)



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Academic Searching vs. Personal Research

We all have our interests and do some sort of research, whether it be Google Searching or just discussing interests with friends, but how do we take it to the academic standard that your instructors expect in college?

Personal Searching: Social media, Wikis, Quora, eHow, Reddit, friends/peers

Academic Searching: Library Databases, .gov, .org, Any source with authority, experts/authorities, no Wikipedia, no Social Media unless you can trace the origins of the story to a reputable souce

No Wikipedia

Some questions to help determine if a research question is appropriate for academic research:

• Can the question be answered yes or no?

• Can the question be answered in one sentence or a single paragraph?

• Have entire books been written to answer this question?

• Would answering this question help someone else who has an interest in this topic?

The 5Ws to Help Narrow Your Topic

Narrow topic by asking:

  •          who – a person, organization, demographic group

  •          what – an event, theory, discovery

  •          where – a country, region, defined geographic space

  •          when – a time span, century, period of time (Victorian era)

  •          why – describe what is significant about this topic

Use the CRAP Test

It is challenging to determine whether information from the Web is credible and can be trusted. Is it factual? Biased? Relevant to your topic?

Here is a handy acronym to help you determine if a source may be CRAP.



  • CURRENCY How recently was this information published/posted? Can you find a publication date?
  • RELIABILITYIs the information supported by evidence? Can it be confirmed by other sources?
  • AUTHORITYWho wrote the information - are they an expert or knowledgeable in their field? (i.e. For health information, did a doctor or nurse write it?)
  • PURPOSE / POINT OF VIEWWhy was it written? To sell something? To sway opinion? Is it biased toward a particular point of view?

Find a Database by Subject

Search on your subject to find databases that would be appropriate. Ex. Political Science.

eLibrary - Starting Point for Research Needs

logo for elibrary

Chair Analogy

How a great topic is like a great chair. 

french upholstered chair peacock fan chairwindsor chair

  • Functional yet enjoyable.
  • Has standard features but is also special to the owner.
  • Has strong legs or foundations.
  • Large enough to be comfortable but not so big that you feel "lost"