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ENG/HST/HUM/REL 492: Choose a Topic

Senior Thesis Prep

Developing Your Thesis Topic

The following questions will help you develop a meaningful, interesting, and inquiry-based topic that you will still love after a year of research and writing!  Jot down your responses to help you brainstorm.

To select a thesis topic, ask yourself:

  1. What am I interested in? What puzzles me? Which courses have stimulated my interest?
  2. What problems exist in my field (that can be resolved with new knowledge)? What seem to be the primary targets of inquiry?

Based on your answers to the above questions (as well as on discussion with one or more faculty members), identify a preliminary topic/area of interest. To generate a research question/"quest" based on that topic, ask yourself:

  1. What do I know about this topic? What don't I know?
  2. What do I want to know? How can I find out more?
  3. What are possible sources of information about this question?

Based on these questions, and on preliminary reading, library research, and discussion regarding the topic, formulate a preliminary question or describe a possible project.

To refine/test that research question/quest, ask yourself:

  1. Does somebody already know the answer to this question? (Do I need to do more reading/research to find out?)
  2. Is this question too narrow? Too broad?

To determine feasibility, ask yourself:

  1. How might one answer this question? (methodology)
  2. Are the necessary data readily available?
  3. Do I have available to me appropriate time and resources to answer this question or complete this project?
  4. How can I prepare myself to complete this project? If there are roadblocks, how can I revise my question?

Adapted from "Choosing a Thesis Topic," Millersville University

Research Question v. Thesis Statement

"A research question addresses a problem to be solved. A thesis statement is a tentative answer to a research question."

--William B. Badke, Research Strategies, 3rd ed. (p. 25)

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