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Hope Library Guides

ENGL 113 - Childress: Brainstorming



  • Research starts with questions, not answers.
  • Be curious about the community agency or non-profit you are volunteering with and the work they are doing.
  • Break down your paper into a series of very small questions (this is a less overwhelming way to do research).
  • Think about what kinds of sources you will need to answer your very small questions (rather than sources for your whole paper).

Practice Breaking a Topic Down

1. What specific questions are you trying to answer? Be as specific as possible!

Example Topic: How Can Historical Societies Do Better Outreach?

  • Who works for historical societies?
  • Who are the people who use our local historical society?
  • What are effective marketing strategies for cultural heritage organizations?
  • What challenges do historical societies face?
  • Why? (you could wonder the answer is what it is to any of the above questions)

2. Who cares about these questions? Think about the answer for each sub-question you have individually.

  • Remember that there are lots of people who have a stake in a topic: those that study it, those that are affected by it, those who have personal experience with it. All of the stakeholders are important to consider. Each of them will have authority over parts of the question. 

3. What might the people who care about these questions have recorded/written down?

4. Where is this information and do you have access to it?

Picking Your Topic is Research

Make sure your topic isn't too big or too small for the assignment you've been given. The assignment parameters are your friend. For this assignment, remember to look at your topic on a national level only and to consider only three of the causes or effects.