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GUID 150: Start

Course Guide for Writing 111

Navigating the Consortium Library Website

The Consortium Library has many resources and collections for you to use. Please open and print out the assignment below. Follow the instructions in the assignment and use the Related Guides on the left hand side of this guide, to help answer these questions. 

 

 

Finding and Searching for a Topic

A good topic has these characteristics:

1.     It has a built-in question (something you can debate)

2.     It is focused such that you can write about it in just a few pages

3.     It has been written about by other people

4.     It interests you

5.     It is one you can understand

1. The purpose of a college paper, generally, is to make a statement or an argument and support it with facts. In this sense "obesity" is a bad topic because there is no claim (and it's is not focused). A better topic would be along the lines of "Do current nutritional labeling practices encourage the obesity epidemic?" This is something you can answer in 3-5 pages and is focused. A good topic is often a question that can be answered.

 

2. Your topic has to be small enough that you can write about it in relatively few pages. Art, for example, is too broad of a topic. Many, many thick books have been written about art. Instead, a specific artist or style of art would be a better subject for a paper. We'll talk more about narrowing your topic down later.

 

3. Your topic should also be one that other people have written about. Generally speaking, your professors don’t want just your opinion. They want you to support your argument with the ideas and facts of others. Your professor may even require that you use a certain kind of source, such as scholarly articles. If so, it is important that your topic has been written about in the required types of sources. As an example, Pebble Mine is a topic that has been about widely, but I have found few, if any, scholarly articles on the topic (although there are articles on aspects of it, such as the effects of copper on fish).

 

4. A good topic will keep your interest for the days or weeks you spend working with it.

 

5. Finally, you should pick a topic that you can understand. Do not underestimate the importance of really understanding the sources you read. If you simply quote random sentences to support your arguments, your professors will catch you.

 

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Anna Bjartmarsdottir