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Political Science 101: Huezo

Need Help Selecting a Topic/Issue?

Tip: Choose something you are interested in, something you want to know more about. That way, the research process will seem more like fun and less like work. Don’t try to pick something “easy”: these topics are often boring and require just as much work as those that are interesting.

Here are some ideas for identifying a topic/issue in the community:

More Strategies

Strategy #1: Create a Mind Map or Concept Map

mind map is a graphical way to represent ideas and concepts. It is a visual thinking tool that helps you structure information so you can better analyze, comprehend, synthesize, recall and generate new ideas. It also helps you see how ideas are connected to one another. A concept map is a similar strategy for identifying a main topic and organizing information visually to make connections between ideas.

Strategy #2: Ask Some Questions

You can ask yourself some questions to begin developing your research ideas like:

  • Who is involved? Who is affected?
  • What is the problem or issue?
  • When did it happen? What time period or era is covered?
  • Why did it happen? What were the causes?
  • Where did it happen? What is the location or areas?
  • How does this issue affect others? How serious is the problem?

You can also think about what you would like to know about this issue and write down as many questions you have as possible.

Adapted from LMU Need A Topic Guide.

Strategy #3: Keep an Ideas Journal or Freewrite 

Take 10 minutes to write on the topic without any editing. Summarize what you wrote about in a single sentence. Use that first sentence for another free write exercise for 5 minutes. Summarize your second writing session in one sentence. Continue to free write about your sentences until a clear angle or aspect of your topic emerges

Strategy #4: Have a Conversation (with yourself or others) 

  • Ask yourself questions (perhaps based off of the assignment prompt and/or in relation to your ideas and interests). Write down the answers to your own questions as a way to think through potential ideas. 

  • Do a think aloud. It is productive to brainstorm by having a conversation with someone else (perhaps a friend, peer, family member, mentor, or instructor). Find someone that you can bounce your thoughts off of as a way to clarify and develop your ideas for the assignment. 

Asking Questions

Next, turn your topic into a question. Watch this short video (3:08) by the University of West Florida on creating research questions. 

Who, What, When, Where, Why and How

One popular strategy for forming a research questions or topic includes using journalistic questions. With journalistic questions, you are asking questions about the topic as if you are a journalist or reporter and need more information to write a news story.

Journalistic questioning begins with Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. Using journalistic questions, you can find out about:

  • Who are the people involved and who is affected
  • What are the facts of the topic, problems, issues, and other related or similar concepts
  • When is the timeline or updates about the topic
  • Where is the location, its ethical standpoint, or where information comes from
  • Why did this happen, cause, or previous evidence of the topic
  • How the topic came to be, how serious it is, and what, if any, are possible solutions 

Each part of these questions would then become part of your research question.

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