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Focusing Your Research Paper

Want help in making sure your paper topic is something you are interested in and you can manage to write about? Follow this step-by-step guide to improve your results. Want help creating an outline for your paper or learning how to successfully write a 1

How this works

You have gotten an assignment to write a research paper for one of your courses and your professor stresses that you must choose a topic that you haven't worked on before.  What do you do if:

  • You can't "reuse" that high school paper on lowering the legal drinking age to 18 - your professor wants you to research a new topic. 
  • How do you find a topic and good resources?
  • Your professor just told you that your topic on global warming is good, but way too broad. 
  • You've gotten back your first try at writing and supporting a claim to find you didn't do a good job and have to start over. 

Well, here's some help.

Use the tools and techniques in this guide to help you:

  • choose a good topic
  • narrow the topic so you can make and support good claims in your paper
  • find the kind of sources that will support your claims
  • make the most of your work 

Now, there are no guarantees that following the steps laid out here will ensure you get a good grade - your skills and talents are the most important element there - but following these steps will make the paper research process less stressful and produce a record of your work you can use along the way to discuss the topic and your results with your professor or a librarian.

Let's get started.  Each tab is one step in the process.  Proceed in sequence so you can get the most out of this guide.  I've included both the steps you will want to follow as well as hints (Test for Success boxes) that, if followed, will lead you to being a better, independent researcher.

Getting Specific Help

You can see from my subject specialties in the box to the right that I don't cover all the subjects Baylor teaches.  I and all of my Librarian colleagues are generalists with a specialty.  We can all help you to get started in the right direction, but if you are working on a very specific topic or writing a more advanced paper, please use the link below to find out and connect to the Librarian who can be most helpful.