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Developing your topic

Research assignment

Your proposal is an important step toward writing your research paper and the presentation. For these, you need to:

  • introduce your research and proposed topic
  • ask some kind of research question
  • show a minimum of 3 scholarly sources, using proper Chicago style citation

Four steps to choosing your topic and research question

  1. Choose a general topic or area that interests you. (Important!)
  2. Do some background research to see how others have discussed that topic.
  3. Ask questions related to your topic. Then ask whether those questions make sense, and if they are worth trying to answer.
  4. Chose one of those questions, refine it, make it clear, focused, and reasonable.

These writing resources might be helpful

Quick exercise

Work with your classmates to compare these resources. Do you think they are good, scholarly sources?

Scholarly vs. popular sources


Academic / Scholarly / Peer-reviewed




Journalist / Professional writer

Crowd generated content


Reviewed by an editorial board or other experts (peers)

Reviewed by an editor (sometimes)

 Audience &   language

Scholars and students / academic

General public / easy to understand


Original research; uses previously published literature for background

News and practical information; uses a variety of sources for background

 Cites sources?



Find your scholarly sources

Use these examples as a starting place, but change them for your topic and research needs: 

  • add keywords that describe your topic in more detail
  • limit the date range if you want newer (or older) sources
  • add words to define a population (e.g. Alberta, Canada), or a particular group (e.g., women, men, children)
Original search Peer-reviewed articles Books/ebooks
 (muslim* OR islam*) AND tradition* link link
 (muslim* OR islam*) AND multicultural* link link
 (muslim* OR islam*) AND (modern OR contemporary) link link
 (muslim* OR islam*) AND identity link link
 islamophobia AND Canada link link

To search just religious studies databases, see the list on the main page of this guide. You can also find some introductory Islam resources on this page of the guide.

Did one (or more) of these options help you get started?
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