Refine Your Topic

Identifying a good research question is an important step. First, you have to work out what is already known about it, and from this you can work out what needs to be studied further. You should base your topic on something which still needs to be studied – so your research contributes to published knowledge.

New York City – The Great Mass Meeting of Liberal Republicans

Once you have defined your topic, you can start writing up your proposal.
At this stage, it is more about getting your thoughts, ideas, and learning into a document. Don’t worry too much about wording, grammar, and punctuation.
Do worry about references! Make sure you reference where every idea came from, because later, when you need to refine it, you will want to know more about it, and you will need to look it up.

To analyse your topic further, you’ll need to review existing literature.
It would be great if you could just read EVERYTHING that has already been done about your topic, and then work out what’s missing,
but in most cases, it is just not possible.

The Task

Get started refining your topic. Start by define parameters for search:

  • Limit your sources. Which academic journals / databases are most relevant to you?
  • Limit search terms:
    • keywords
    • publication dates
    • authors
    • etc.

Reflective activity: Share what you've found!

  • At least once a week, share what you found with your group: the topic you are interested in, papers, resources, websites, or anything you think may be of use.
  • Share your search parameters with your group.
  • Comment on at least two other group members’ search parameters. What could they improve?
  • Lastly, Tell us how the feedback of your peers made you revise your search parameters – or anything else!