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SOCY2210 Research Methods


Choosing a Topic

Focusing your research

Factors Involved

Some tips when choosing a topic:

Interest. Choose a topic of interest to you--something that you want to spend time reading about this semester or possibly researching at some point during your academic career.  You might consider developing a research proposal as a basis for a senior thesis or an independent study project.

Knowledge. You don't need to know much about the subject at the outset. The research process mines new knowledge. 

Breadth of Topic. Too broad a topic is unmanageable and will result in frustration in culling through many, many research papers in order to develop a focused research question and concise framework for your study (e.g. "Racism in America Today").  One suggestion is to focus on an issue of inequality facing a particular segment of the population to help develop key terms and focus your literature search (e.g., How racism within the school context influences academic achievement among Latino males). In addition to reading the news, academic literature and writing the ungraded assignments, conversations with your professor can help you refine the focus for your research proposal.
Guidelines. Follow the instructor's guidelines very carefully: they will help prevent you selecting an inappropriate topic and/or research methodology.

Other Practicalities

Enough Time Available? Make sure that you choose a topic that's "doable" within the time available. In short, allow enough time to complete your paper.  

Ungraded assignments.  The ungraded assignments are designed to assist you in writing the literature review section of your final research proposal.  It is in your best interest to complete those assignments as comments from the professor can assist you in improving your final paper.

Length of Paper? Focus on content, not length of the paper. The guidelines for the research proposal provide much detail on what needs to be addressed in each section of the paper.  As a guide, the average length of the final paper is about fifteen, double-spaced pages. 

Schedule. You will be conducting two mini-research projects in addition to the research proposal this semester.  It is recommended that you finalize the literature review portion of your research proposal by mid-semester so that you can focus on developing the methodological section during the latter half of the semester.

Final Observation. Most instructors do not allow a student to submit the same paper in two courses. Some may allow students to expand or update an earlier paper, the product being essentially a new paper.  Always discuss this issue with your instructor.