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BIOL 30: Principles of Biology

Guide to help students find sources for their Biology 30 lab paper on optogenetics.

Choosing a Topic

A good topic is:

  • Broad enough to find information on the subject
  • Focused enough to now be overwhelming with too much information
  • Interesting to you
  • Fits the scope and requirements of the assignment

Turning a Topic into a Research Question

Creating a research question will help you to focus your research. What about the topic do you want to research? What aspects of the subject interests you? Here are some common ways to think about your topic:

  • Who: Consider a specific group of people, such as women, college students, or children. If your topic is an animal or other life form, consider a specific type, such as black bears or cactus (type of succulent).
  • What: What do you want to find information about? Is it the effect of something on something else? Is it the cause of something on something else?
  • Where: Is there a specific area, region, state, country, etc. that you want to look at? For example: Mohave Desert, California, or Pacific Ocean.
  • When: Sometimes a specific date or date range is a good way to think about your topic. Are there significant dates or date ranges for what you are studying? Are there specific periods of times that you want to study?
  • Why: Why does the research matter? Is it going to help resolve in issue? Does it further explain what happened? How is it significant or contributes to what is already out there on the topic?

With a research question in mind, you're now ready to start doing some searching. Click on the Finding Articles link on the left-hand side to learn how-to search and to search library databases.