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Unpacking your topic: Home

Unpacking Your Topic


Have you been assigned a topic or can you chose your own?

The "Developing A Topic" video can help you if you are choosing your own topic.

How many pages will your paper be? Or how long will your presentation be?

Are you required to use a certain number of books or journal articles? Are you required to include specific types of research resources such as scholarly, peer-reviewed, primary, current?

What is the purpose of your assignment? Can you explain it to a friend?

 →Note prompts from your professor like "compare and contrast"; "trace the development of"; "construct a well-researched argument"; "support your conclusion" to know what your assignment should do. If you still don't understand, ask!

When is it due?

 →Create a time line that breaks up the work into chunks:

 • Do background reading to understand the topic--what are the important issues, people, events, vocabulary? Use your text and subject encyclopedias

• Put your topic into a question form--your paper is the answer to the question.

• Gather keywords for searches in the library catalog and appropriate library databases. Ask for help from a librarian if needed.

• Gather your materials, read, highlight and/or take notes.

• Write a draft of your paper. Get feedback from a classmate, The Writing & Media Lab, or your professor.

• Write final version of your paper.

• Make your bibliography or works cited page. The library has tools to help with this.

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Libby Young
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