Most often we begin with a general
idea for a topic that is not yet developed into a manageable focus for our
paper. If you select a broad, general topic like animal rights, there
are many different aspects to that topic. It would be impossible to
cover all of the dimensions of that topic in any great detail given the
confines of a typical research paper assignment.
To avoid a cursory
treatment of your topic, you want to develop your topic into a manageable
You can limit your topic by time and place, but most often it is easiest
to focus in on just one issue related to a broader topic. For example,
we might choose to write about using animals to test cosmetics. That
is one aspect or issue related to the animal rights debate.
Gathering Some Preliminary Information:
If you do not know a lot about your topic to begin with or are not sure
about issues related to your topic, it is best to gather some preliminary
information. Reference sources are a good place to begin.
General or subject specific encyclopedias will provide you with background
information and a concise overview of your topic, which is especially useful
if your paper is intended to be informative in nature. Reference
sources that cover current/controversial issues will help if you are asked
to write a persuasive or argumentative paper. Reference sources can
help you discover a focus for your paper because they will introduce you to
different issues related to a general broad topic.