The Writing Center


Don’t begin your research
paper with a topic—begin it with a question. The answer to your question
will be the research paper. If you choose a topic, you can write forever!

Here are some examples:

  • one student who is an
    environmental studies major was curious about the quality of water in the
    Great Lakes. He asked, if the current level of pollution remains the same,
    will the Great Lakes survive?
  • another student, an interior
    design major, was fascinated with how certain environments create peace or
    stress. She asked, what are specific ways I can enhance a room so that people
    feel relaxed in it?

Exploring Your Question:

This is a brainstorming
exercise that asks you to shift perspectives in order to enhance your creativity.
Answer the following questions to give you a sense of what you already know
and how to go about finding what you need.

Static View:

What definitions, theories,
ideas, and information on my question do I already know from experience, class
lectures, and reading?
What are major subtopics?
Who are authorities in this area?
What kinds of information do I want to gather (from my research)?
What hunches or intuition do I bring to this project?

Dynamic View:

What do I know about the
history of my subject?
What causes or effects do I know about it?
What do I need to trace (with my research)?
What cultural issues have been part of the history of this subject?

Relative View:

Under what headings or classifications
would my subject fall?
What controversies or contrasting theories exist on my topic?
What relationships between my subject and other topics might be important?
What kinds of sources of information will I need to consult?