collage of ports

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The Penn Online Research Tutorial (PORT) site was built with old software that is neither sustainable nor secure.
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Identifying Topics
Unless your instructor assigns a specific topic, you will need to identify a good one yourself. Keep in mind that you don't need a refined topic at this point—most people start with general ideas that they will develop further. Identifying an appropriate topic can be difficult. Fortunately, there are numerous places to find inspiration.
Some Sources of Ideas for Topics
Assigned readings and class discussions
The major themes and ideas of a class are usually elaborated on through course readings and discussions. Your general focus of research and methods of investigation will usually be related to course work. Topics that interest you will come up during the semester, and they can form the basis of a good topic for research.
Your interests and personal experiences
You can often find unique insights into topics by using what your have learned through personal experience. Furthermore, what you find interesting will often be interesting to others. Remember, however, that you are writing for a scholarly audience, so your personal experiences and insights are rarely sufficient grounds for supporting an argument.
Browsing is the process of quickly scanning a number of resources that are all related to one subject to get a sense of the information in them . A good way to identify major topics and issues in a particular subject is to browse through books, journals or reference works that are about that subject.
At first you may not have enough information to choose a good topic, or you may not clearly understand what questions are addressed in the discipline or feel that you are 'missing something.' In these cases it is often a good idea to use background resources to better understand your subject and identify appropriate topics.
For example: I am taking a course on the history of music in the 20th century
We were assigned an interesting reading about Jazz.
I am from New York and have always been interested in its history.
I did some searching for 'Jazz' in the Encyclopedia of American Studies.
I looked through some articles about the history of Jazz in Ebsco Megafile.