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Research Guides@Tufts

SMFA ENGS 1: Fall 2019 with Cheryl Alison

Interests Become Topics

Research is a messy, creative, and powerful process that ultimately leads to learning and the creation of new knowledge

An important part of the research process is turning your interests into topic ideas. A good topic should:

  • Spark your interest and curiosity
  • Inspire deep and critical thinking
  • Change as you learn more

Great topic ideas take time to develop. 

Topics Become Keywords

Distilling topic ideas into single words and short phrases is an important step in the research process. It helps you:

  • Focus and refine your thinking
  • Prepare to search resources like library databases, do more targeted searching on the open web

Example topic:

Are safe injection sites an effective way to combat the opioid crisis?

opioid crisis opioids safe injection sites drug policy Purdue Pharma
opioid epidemic Fentanyl legal injection sites drug laws The Sackler family
overdose crisis/epidemic heroin supervised injection sites harm reduction Johnson & Johnson
  OxyContin fix rooms    
    medically supervised injection centers    

Topic vs. Thesis

Your topic is what you will explore via research, critical engagement, and writing. It might shift and change, but you identify it early in the research process.

Your thesis is the argument you are making about your topic, informed by your research. It should come later in your research process, after you have critically engaged with a diverse array of sources. 

Research is a process; you must learn about a topic before you can make an informed, intelligent argument. Remember that you are taking part in a scholarly conversation-- just as in a "regular" conversation, you can't successfully participate unless you're listening to what other people have to say.

Head of the W. Van Alan Clark, Jr. Library

Darin Murphy's picture
Darin Murphy
W. Van Alan Clark, Jr. Library
SMFA at Tufts
230 The Fenway
Boston, MA 02115
Office: 617 627 0021