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*English Subject Guide: Topic Development


Topic Development

As you browse for topics, take notes of possible key terms. Databases look for the exact words that you put in, so think about what words are used to describe your topic, including synonyms and related terms.


  Skill Tutorial: Choosing a Topic

This module will walk you through the process of choosing a viable topic, and transforming that topic into a research question.

Review the boxes on each tab, including the questions at the bottom to check for understanding. Once you have reviewed the tabs, complete the quiz at the end.

Background Information

HPU Libraries provides a number of general reference sources that can be a great place to go for background information, definitions, and overviews of a particular topic. Not finding what you need? Just ask a librarian! 

Quick Tips

1. Read the Assignment Prompt.

Did you read it? Read it again! Ideally, the assignment prompt will help you scope your topic (ex. do you need a topic that can be covered in 2-3 pages, or 21-23 pages), provide expectations for the purpose of your claim/thesis, and point to specific types of materials the instructor may want you to use. 

2. Leverage Theory

Literary theories are essentially "different lenses critics use to view and talk about art, literature, and even culture" (Purdue Owl). As you form your topic, browse Purdue Owl's literary theory overviews and sample questions to ground your own question in an established 'lens', or lenses--you can employ multiple theories simultaneously.

3. Originality is Ok

Don't be discouraged if you cannot find existing publications analyzing the same text in the same way you want to write about. There is a big world of literature out there, and being the first to ask certain questions of a given text is more common than you would think

Oxford English Dictionary

If you're going to use a definition, use one from this source. The OED provides you with the history behind the words that have become part of the English language, including first usage and variants. This information can provide you with new insight into the words chosen by the author.

For more about the OED, check out this blog post by Andrew Fair.