UMGC Library

Research Tutorial

Tips for Topic Development

When your instructor permits you to create your own topic for a research and writing assignment, keep these tips in mind:

  • Review your class readings and class discussions to help you choose a topic. A good topic will often build on ideas that you have already learned about in class.
  • Do some reading on a topic or topics that interest you.
  • Consult your class instructor, a librarian, or a writing coach. Discussing your ideas for a topic with an experienced researcher can help you choose a topic that will be interesting and practical to research.

For more information, see UMGC's Online Guide to Writing and Research: Doing Exploratory Research.

Turning a Topic into a Research Question or Thesis Statement

The following figure gives some ideas for how to progress from a general topic to a research question to a thesis statement.

Turning a topic into a research question or thesis statement

Turning a Topic into a Research Question or Thesis Statement

 

General Topic

Research Question

Thesis Statement

Definition

The assignment your instructor provides, or the general area or issue in which you are interested

The question a researcher asks that guides his or her inquiry into a topic

A summary statement of the writer's main point

Example

Female managers in the workplace

How do female managers' work-life balance decisions affect their opportunities to be promoted to upper-level management positions inFortune 500 IT companies?

Female managers encounter a glass ceiling in upper-level management positions inFortune 500 IT companies.

Narrowing Your Topic

Narrowing your topic is often the most difficult aspect of formulating a research question. The figure below gives further tips on how to focus your topic.

Narrowing your topic

Narrowing your Topic

Broad Topic: Female Managers

 

Limit by Location

Limit by Type of Company

Limit by Time Period

Narrowed
Topic

Female managers in Asia

Female managers in Fortune500 companies

Female managers in the twentieth century

Further
Narrowed
Topic

Female managers in Japan

Female managers in Fortune500 IT companies

Female managers in the 1990s

Research
Question

How is the promotion of women to positions in upper management in IT companies in Japan different from that in the United States?

How do female managers' work-life balance decisions affect their opportunities to be promoted to upper-level management positions inFortune 500 IT companies?

How did the promotional opportunities and job experiences of female managers differ from those of male managers in the mid-1990s?