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College Level Research: Choose a Topic

Build on your high school research experiences and adjust to the higher standards recommended for college research projects with these tips and guidelines.

Consider the Project Requirements

What types of resources are required? How many?

  • professional literature vs. popular literature
  • books vs. articles vs. websites
  • reference materials (encyclopedia, dictionary, atlas, etc.) 

Make sure you understand the type of research project you are assigned! Here are a few that are common:

  • Informative--present information on a topic objectively
  • Argumentative--discuss two or more sides to an issue, persuading the audience that a certain position/opinion has more evidence to support it
  • Comparison/Contrast--explore the differences and similarities of two issues or things that have a common purpose
  • Explication--explain / interpret a creative work, such as poetry, paintings, stories, music, dance, etc.
  • Critique / Analysis--analyze the effect / value of a project

Need ideas?

The purpose of most research assignments is to explore an idea independently, with specific requirements to ensure quality of learning. As you review ideas from theses sources, keep an open mind and consider what provokes your interest? What topics intrigue you to probe more deeply? Make sure you select a topic that is interesting AND fulfills the requirements.

  • Review textbook chapters
  • Browse magazines & newspapers
  • Reflect on issues in your intended profession, career or discipline
  • Expand on a topic discussed in class
  • Talk with your advisor / instructor


CQ Researcher

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