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ENG 101: The Informative Essay

Research Topic Basics

The process of developing your topic into a researchable thesis or question can seem intimidating, but if you give yourself a bit of time at the beginning of the assignment timeline it can be a straightforward process.  Think about it in stages:

  1. Think of a subject that interests you and consider how it might overlap with the assignment prompt; the area of overlap becomes your topic (see below).
  2. Gain an understanding of the topic by using reference resources.
    • Learn about the existing scholarly conversations to see what aspects of the topic are being discussed and what questions and viewpoints you might find interesting. 
  3. Use your favorite brainstorming method to generate questions about the topic:
    • Who, What, When,. Where, Why, How?
    • In what way; under what circumstances?
    • Apply limiters such as Time/Event, Place, Person/Group, Aspect/Facet
  4. Consider your questions:
    • Which questions best address the assignment prompt?
    • Which are most researchable?
    • Which ones interest you the most?
  5. Answer the question with either a defensible position if you are writing a persuasive/argumentative essay or with a clear factual statement if you are writing an expository/informative essay. This is the defensible position that is the core of your thesis..
  6. Craft a thesis statement thesis statement that contextualizes your position within the broader topic and mentions several factual facets that support your position.  See The Thesis Statement tab for more information!

As you learn more about your topic you might find that your thesis statement needs to be tweaked or adjusted; that is OK!  We call the early version of the statement a 'working thesis' because we expect that as you learn more about the subject, your understanding will evolve and develop, and your thoughts and opinions might change.  Just make sure your instructor approves any adjustments and proceed with your  research.

Allow yourself time to develop your topic!


Seminole State Library. (2014, January 29). 5 components of information literacy [video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ronp6Iue9w

Research as Inquiry

Research is iterative and depends upon asking increasingly complex or new questions whose answers in turn develop additional questions or lines of inquiry in any field.”


Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL). (2021, October 13). Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education. ACRL Guidelines, Standards, and Frameworks.   https://www.ala.org/acrl/standards/ilframework#inquiry