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CAL 103: Writing and Communication

This guide will help CAL 103 students get started with their research.

Concept Mapping

Concept mapping is a good way to visualize the connections your mind makes between concepts and ideas. When trying to create a research question, concept mapping helps organize your thoughts and can lead you to isolate ideas that can make for a solid research paper.

(click to enlarge)

Which of these might apply to your topic?

  • Synonyms
  • Related topics
  • Time period
  • Technical terms
  • People
  • Geographical locations

There are no wrong answers! This is the phase of researching when you can let your mind go wherever it wants to.

Narrow Your Focus

Now that you have created your concept map, there should be one or two aspects of your topic that seem both interesting and able to be turned into a workable question. Narrow your focus: you know what you're going for; now put it in the form of a question. Based on the concept map above, your process might look like this:

Main topic: Endangered species
Narrow: Reason for endangerment
Narrower: Colonization/encroachment
Focused topic: US and Australia (both colonized relatively recently but very different countries)
Research Question: Compare the process of endangered animals from US and Australia - similarities? differences?

Your question can be:

  • Comparison
  • Cause and effect
  • Process

and it MUST:

  • Be open-ended (not answered by yes or no)
  • Address an issue or controversy and/or solve a problem
  • Be something you can take a stand on

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