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ENGWR 300 (Waggoner)

ENGWR 300 (Waggoner)

Things to Consider When Choosing a Topic
Choosing a Topic

Suggested Topics for your research paper


  • the debate over gender-neutral pronouns
  • different ways men and women communicate
  • terms related to gender or sexual identity (non-binary, asexual, etc.)

Politics/Current Events:

  • the language different political groups use to describe each other
  • political propaganda
  • "fake news"
  • journalism
  • free speech 
  • the language of protest
  • PC language and "cancel culture"


  • the way certain dialects, accents, or languages are viewed in the United States
  • ways certain groups are silenced
  • hate speech
  • discriminatory language (perhaps exploring its causes and/or its effects)

Pop culture and mass media:

  • the ways advertisers use and/or manipulate language
  • profanity or other explicit language in entertainment (music or other)
  • song lyrics 
  • slang (how different groups' identities are reflected in their slang usage, how slang develops, etc.)
  • how language evolves on social media
  • loss of civility in online discourse
  • "cancel culture" 


  • the terms different groups use to self-identify (examples Latinx versus Latino/a versus Hispanic, Black versus African-American, etc.) 
  • the ways different generations are labeled: Boomer, Gen X, Millennial, Gen Z , etc.
  • the experience of being bilingual and/or of having English as a second language
  • dialect and group identity


  • lying (the psychology of lying, the social impact of lying, etc.)
  • language to resolve conflict and/or promote better communication
  • name-calling and the use of language to bully others


  • free speech on campus
  • trigger warnings
  • language requirements in K-12 or for college graduation
  • bilingualism in the schools
  • children and language acquisition 
  • issues related to illiteracy
  • how reading and/or writing is taught 
  • should schools teach handwriting (cursive)?
  • English requirements (why do college students have to take freshman comp, anyway?)


  • issues related to American Sign Language
  • the debate over cochlear implants
  • language and (dis)ability (this could be related to learning disabilities, to speech therapy, or to something else)
  • the terms used to describe people with (dis)abilities and the effect of these terms


  • language and self-expression (through poetry, music lyrics, etc.)
  • writing as therapy
  • the importance of communication in relationships

How to Choose a Research Topic

Are you interested in this topic?

Your research will be less tedious if you are looking for something you have a personal interest in.

What exactly is your assignment?

Check with your instructor and read your assignment carefully to make sure that you are on the right track.

Questions that can help clarifying your thoughts:

  • Why did you choose the topic? What interests you about it? Do you have an opinion about the issues involved?
  • Who is your research about? Adults? Women? Children? LGBT? Who is affected by the topic? Do you know of organizations or institutions affiliated with the topic?
  • What are the major questions for this topic? What are the major aspects of the topic? Political? Ethical? Psychological? Are there a range of issues and viewpoints to consider?
  • Where is your topic important: at the local, national or international level? Are there particular areas that the topic is pertinent to this topic?
  • When did your topic become important? Is it a current event or an historical issue? Do you want to discuss your topic in the history context?
  • Is my topic too broad or too narrow?
    • If you get too many hits in OneSearch or in the research databases, then your topic may be too broad.
    • If you get very few or no hits in OneSearch or the research databases, then your topic may be too narrow.

If your assignment requires a source from an academic journal...

If your assignment requires a source from an academic journal, make sure to run a search in OneSearch for academic journal articles on your topic before you lock in your topic.

With certain research topics it will be difficult to find academic journal articles which means that you'll have a more difficult time with your assignment.

Always check OneSearch before locking in your topic.

Rules of Research

These Rules of Research apply to almost any project.

  • Research will always take more time than you expect it to.
  • What do you expect to find? If you don't find it, change your search and try again. Think of research like an experiment. Keep trying until you get the results you're looking for.
  • Start in the right place. If you're writing a college research paper, start at the library homepage. If you're searching for movie times, Google is fine.
  • Build your search. Start with 1-3 words. Add more words to narrow it down. If you start by typing a sentence and don't find many results, you don't know which word or phrase is the problem.
  • Learn a few advanced search strategies.
  • Don't lock your topic until you've done a little pre-research. Do a quick search in OneSearch to see what sort of material turns up.
  • If you have to include a peer-reviewed journal article in your bibliography, check OneSearch to make sure that you can find journal articles on this specific topic.

Most importantly, get help from a librarian early and often. We love to help with research!