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ENGLISH_101-6: Muddy Waters: The Mississippi River in Literature and Culture (Cerne): Research a question

Have you seen an aerial view?

What about the Mississippi River interests you?

Explore your topic

What about the Mississippi River interest you?

Somewhere in between your initial idea and settling on a research question, you'll need to do background research on how scholars in a particular subject area have discussed your topic. You may find background research in your textbook or class readings, academic books in the library's collection, or reference sources.

The databases below compile reference sources from a variety of disciplines, and they can be a great way to consider how your topic has been studied from different angles.

Transform an idea into a research question

After you have an initial project idea, you can think deeper about the idea by developing a "Topic + Question + Significance" sentence. This formula came from Kate Turabian's Student's Guide to Writing College Papers. Turabian notes that you can use it plan and test your question, but do not incorporate this sentence directly into your paper (p. 13):

TOPIC: I am working on the topic of __________,
QUESTION: because I want to find out __________,
SIGNIFICANCE: so that I can help others understand __________.

Remember: the shorter your final paper, the narrower your topic needs to be. Having trouble?

  • Which specific subset of the topic you can focus on? Specific people, places, or times?
  • Is there a cause and effect relationship you can explore?
  • Is there something about this topic that is not addressed in scholarship?

Turabian, Kate L. Student's Guide to Writing College Papers. 4th edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 2010.