WR 122: LeFave: 1-Topic of Inquiry


Choosing a Topic of Inquiry

Choosing a topic of inquiry that both interests you and is a good match for the assignments in WR122 often takes some browsing around. While the topic you choose doesn't need to be controversial or popular, it does need to be something you're curious about because you'll be investing some time and energy into exploring the topic through research and writing.

Watch the video on the right for strategies on choosing a topic. Then browse the links below (browse Finding a topic in the news and Policy & Research Institutes) to find a few topics to choose from that interest you.

Finding topics in the news

Searching news sources on the open web is a great way to identify a topic of interest. You are also invited to browse research institutes for topics being addressed by those interest groups. Read the descriptions and follow the links in the two boxes below that interest you:

Policy & research institutes

Policy and research institutes conduct and publish credible research, often including polls, and advocacy on social, political, cultural or economic issues. While most policy and research institutes are non-profit organizations, some have a political or ideological slant.

Advanced Google Searching

One of the best features of Google's advanced search is the ability to limit your search to the areas of the web where the information is most reliable, such as education sites or government sites. The shortcut for this is to add site:edu or site:gov to your regular Google search.

For example, if you conduct an ordinary Google search for nutritional supplements, most of your top results will be commercial (.com) sites trying to sell you vitamins. If you search for nutritional supplements site:gov , the top results (except for the sponsored ads) will be sites such as the National Institute of Health and the Food and Drug Administration, which are authoritative, unbiased sources that are not trying to sell you anything. If you search for nutritional supplements site:edu, your top results will be from universities providing research on nutritional supplements.

Learn more Google Search tips from "6 Google Tricks That Will Turn You Into an Internet Detective" in the New York Times.

Turning an Interest into a Research Question

In this video, you’ll learn how to turn something you find interesting into a researchable question for a college research project.

Background research

Now you're ready to get to know the topic of inquiry. Background research is an essential first step. Read the text and watch the videos below to learn why getting to know your topic is a great way to start your research. In order to explore what others have written and understand about your topic, start by searching a broad concept related to your topic.


For example, if you're writing about the experience of returning home from a military tour of duty, search "military life" or "military reintegration." If you're writing about juggling college, work and home-life, search on the phrase "time management" if that resonates with your interests. The trick is to search on concepts or ideas that describe the life experience you're writing about.

Background sources like encyclopedias and newspaper articles are good for finding out who is talking about your topic (psychologists? educators?) and an overview of what they think is important.


Watch the video titled "Whatapedia" and then try each of the databases listed below to find at least one relevant entry on your topic.

After reading, watching and searching all of the resources listed on this page, locate at least one background source that supports your learning about the topic. Aim for sources that will help you establish the context for your specific topic in your essay writing.