Project IV -- Selecting Your Topic

Project IV asks you to first compile an annotated bibliography and then, using those sources, write a literature review. Together, this project will account for 35% of your final grade, so it is imperative that you take this project seriously. You will not be able to throw either part of this project together the night before it is due. The way you perform on this project will have a significant impact on your final grade.

While we will be talking in more detail about what exactly an Annotated Bibliography and a Literature Review are in class, you should know, from the beginning, that a literature review is NOT a research paper. In a research paper, you use the literature (or research) as your foundation, and from there, move on to make your argument. Ideally, your argument contributes something new to the academic discussion. In a literature review, the focus is not your argument or your new idea, but rather the research itself. You are presenting an overview of the previous work that has been done about your topic without making any argument about it yourself.

While this should seem easier, it is often difficult to break away from something you are used to writing. For this reason, the topic you choose to write on is crucial. Please note the following things as you start to think about possible topics you would like to explore:

(1) Your topic must be a scientific one. Ideally, it should be related to the natural sciences, but I am open to approving topics related to the social sciences as well as to the applied sciences.

(2) Your topic should be of personal interest to you. I am giving you a certain amount of freedom in your topic selection, since I know that it is always easier to write about things you are interested in or have a personal connection to. While your topic must ultimately be approved by me -- and once I have approved it, you may not change it -- you are allowed to follow your interests. If at anytime you have questions about your topic or need help selecting a topic, please do not hesitate to ask for help/clarification.

(3) Your topic should not be related to anything that can be considered a "hot button" topic or which engenders strong ethical/moral/religious debate -- e.g. "abortion" or "physician assisted suicide" or "stem cell research." It is often difficult to remain neutral and objective while writing on these topics (especially if you feel strongly about them), which will ultimately ruin your ethos as a writer. Also, these topics tend to spark ethical/moral, rather than scientific debate: a literature review should not be about whether stem cell research should be approved or not. Lastly, these topics are often "overdone." It is very difficult to give new information or present a new aspect of the abortion debate.

(4) It is important that your topic be about a subject in which there is some disagreement or debate. The goal of the literature review is to give a well-rounded presentation of an issue which is most likely unfamiliar to people. For example, if you chose "Side Effects of ADHD Treatment in Children" as your topic, you would (1) identify what the various treatment options for ADHD in children are; (2) discuss the debate surrounding these options about which is better for children; and (3) discuss the effectiveness of these treatment options as well as any side effects. Your research, therefore, would not be entirely about drug therapy. You would find articles advocating drug therapy, behavioral therapy, psychological therapy, etc. 

(5) Lastly, notice that the sample topic mentioned above (as well as the examples given below) are neither too broad nor too specific. It may take you a while to narrow down your topic to your specific research question, but your final topic should not be "ADHD." That is too general and you will find too much information. By narrowing your topic down to "ADHD Treatment in Children," you have limited the scope of your research (although you will still find a wealth of information). If you are unsure where to start, it is best to start with a general topic and let the research guide you. For example, if you are interested in collegiate basketball, you might find research that deals with shoulder injuries, the psychological stress of being a student athlete, or the effect of mouthguards in preventing concussions.

--The effects of video game violence on children's mental & physical health
--The benefits of the acai berry
--Prescription drug abuse among teens
--The causes of the prevalence of eating disorders among college students
--Side effects of excessive texting in teens
--The chemical composition of body armor
--The effects of peer pressure in the media (music/film/TV) on teens
--The connection between marijuana use and cancer
(NB: You may NOT select "the legalization of marijuana" as a topic.)
--The effects of rainforest habitat fragmentation on biodiversity
--The side effects of ADHD treatment in children
--Effects of steroid use on college athletes
--Causes of pathological gambling
--Music Therapy treatment in Alzheimer's patients