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Notes on research and narrowing your overall topic into a thesis

A research paper should not simply be a blind report of information. Instead, it should address an interesting or relevant problem and respond to that problem with a thesis that is specific, debatable, and source driven.

You should begin by developing a research question via critical thinking. When debating an answer or response to your question be sure to consider every point of view that can be taken on the subject, what type of evidence supports those points of view, what aspects of the question are open ended and which facets of the problem have been focused on by scholars.

After considering all of these aspects of your subject or question you should be able to form a thesis, or answer to the problem or subject at hand. Your thesis should be backed up by your sources, though not all sources will function in the same way throughout your essay. Some sources will work to provide context to your argument, some will supply evidence to your claims, and others will work to present alternative points of view so that your argument is well rounded.

The key to all of this is specificity. You will make it much harder on yourself if you do not create a thesis that is as specific as possible because a general thesis leaves too much room for debate and can cause you to meander or lose sight of what you would like to discuss. A concise and exact thesis allows you to be sure of what you are arguing and makes your sources work for you rather than you work to make sense of your sources.

Start with original, broad topic:
The Threat of Erosion

Focus on your topic:
limit by a particular approach to the issue, one part of the subject, a specific time span, a population group, a geographical location. DRAW ON SPECIFICS.

Erosion effects on Louisiana >>
Erosion effects on Louisiana (culture, fisheries, habitats, national navigation, oil & gas industry, storm protection, water quality & agriculture.)

Make a list of useful keywords:
Brainstorm keywords that you associate with your topic

Keywords: trawling, fishing, bayous, crawfish, domestic food sources

Be willing to modify or change
If you find yourself moving in a direction you did not anticipate don’t hit the breaks—see if it leads to a more conductive avenue of thought or research

The negative effects of erosion on domestic food sources via fisheries

Define your topic as a research question:
Ask an important question about your topic that could be answered via research.

What economical effect does erosion in Louisiana have on the United States domestic food supply as fisheries are threatened? 

Read more about topic in light of new view:
Try to answer your own question through research or close investigation into your gathered sources.

“Almost 75% of the fish landed in the Gulf of Mexico come through a Louisiana port (NOAA fisheries 2005). Louisiana in 1997 had more fishing vessels than any other state except for Alaska (Richardson et al. 2004). In addition, in 1999, Louisiana had 122 commercial fish processing plats, as well as 161 wholesalers.”

“Fisheries.” Louisiana’s Coast. State of Louisiana, n.d. Web. 18 Feb. 2013

Form a thesis statement:
In a sense this is an answer to your question. This should be a claim that you can stand behind and argue with the help of your sources and your synthesized understanding of the subject at hand.

As domestic fisheries are threatened by coastal erosion in Louisiana the United States is at risk of losing one of its most profitable coastal industries and therefore will take a substantial hit economically. 


About Ms. Ruffino

Hello students, I'm very excited for the semester with hopes that this blog will keep everyone organized and on task! If you have any questions or concerns stop by my office (Faner 2238) or let me know via email.

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