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Basic Composition and Reading (ENGL 50 - Herold)

Use this guide to master skills you'll need to complete Erin Herold's final essay.

Get Topic Ideas Here

Whenever you are given the freedom to do so, select a topic that genuinely interests you and/or is relevant to your life. Do a quick inventory:

  • What makes you tick? What defines you?<
  • What problems affect you or someone close to you?
  • What do you think the biggest problem in society is?
You'll want to consider the following issues before you select your topic:

  • Will it sustain my interest?
  • Does it fit the parameters of my assignment?
  • Is credible information on this topic readily available?

You can get ideas for research topics from several MJC article databases and from the Web.

Focus Your Topic

Once you identify your topic, your next task is to focus your research into something manageable. This involves clearly defining the specific aspect of the topic you will explore in your paper. This defining process is essential; people spend their entire lives researching and publishing on topics, while you only have a few pages. Narrowing your topic will keep you focused and ultimately save you time!!!!

When deciding upon your focus, pay attention to the parameters of the assignment: how long is the finished product supposed to be? What can you reasonably cover? Is your task to inform your audience about an issue, to argue a certain point of view, or to attempt to solve a problem?

Remember: It isn't necessary to have a clearly-formed thesis before beginning your research. Sometimes your thesis won't reveal itself until after you have done some research.

Here are some methods by which you can begin to focus:

Go back to “why” you chose your topic. What made you choose your topic in the first place? Sometimes articulating the “why” out loud will directly reveal the direction you want to go with your topic.

Do some preliminary reading.  Take a few minutes to run your topic through the library catalog and the library databases. Note how others are exploring your topic.  What “grabs” you?  What doesn’t?

Talk to others about your topic. Check in not only with your professors and librarians, but talk to your friends, family and classmates about your topic. Having your topic reflected by someone else can often spark great ideas, and any chance to articulate your topic “out loud” is beneficial.