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Research 101


What do you already know about the topic?

  • Make a list of what you know about your topic such as general themes, any specific dates or persons affiliated with your topic.
  • Also think about what aspect of the topic you are interested in.

What is the background/history of your topic?

  • When did folx start talking about your topic.
  • Are there any laws, policies, and/or legislation about your topic that has evolved over time? How has that shaped the way your topic is discussed?

Who cares about your topic? 

  • Who cares about your will help you figure out what type of research they do. (scientists will perform experiments, doctors may run a randomized controlled trial, a professor might write a literature review, etc)
  • Who knows about this topic? Is it something that a lot of people care about and discuss?

What evidence do you need?

  • Do you need scholarly articles? Photographs? Personal narratives?
  • Once you know what you need you can determine where you need to go to locate these types of resources. (scholarly articles can be found in databases, news articles can be found online, etc)

How is your topic portrayed in the media?

  • Is this a hot-button issue that folks have very differing opinions about?
  • Has your topic been unfairly criticized or wrongly portrayed in the media?

What does the opposition say?

  • There will be opposition no matter what your topic is. So who are they? What are they saying?
  • How can you use that opposition in your research to prove your points?


Remember, you can change your mind about your stance on your topic! Information exists on a spectrum and you will find yourself occupying different spaces at different times depending on what you read, learn, and unlearn.


Sometimes a visual aid, like a worksheet can help you brainstorm a topic. Want one for yourself? Cool! Just download it below.


Engaging with a topic is hard if we don't know much about it.

Gathering background information is essential to helping us situate our feelings, thoughts, and opinions on the spectrum of conversation.

Here is an awesome database that can help!