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If you haven't determined your research topic, try some ideas on this page to get those brain juices flowing.
Tips for college research assignments:
Make sure you understand your assignment requirements. Read your assignment sheet thoroughly before you begin your research. Highlight or underline the main requirements; look up unfamiliar assignment terms and ask questions as needed to clarify your instructor's expectations.
Select a topic you find interesting. If you find a topic compelling, the research and writing process will be more satisfying for you. Your passion (or lack thereof) will be evident in your paper and affect the reader's (or grader's) response, as well.
Avoid topics that are too broad or too narrow. Your instructor will probably set limitations for the length of your paper. If you pick a problem that is too general, you won't be able to adequately cover it in a few pages. If you select a problem that is too narrow, you may have trouble finding helpful sources. This could prove frustrating and make the assignment harder than it needs to be.
A solid way to approach your research is to fill in this sentence.
I'm studying __________ to investigate __________ in order to understand __________.
This video explains how to choose and narrow a topic into an appropriate research question and how to explore your topic through strategic searching.
Define Your Topic
The first step in an effective search is defining your topic. A good library research topic usually contains 2-3 concepts. It is often in the form of a research question or statement.
Topics that have only one concept or have many concepts are hard to research.
Look at these examples for how to break a topic into concepts. We will use the concepts as keywords. See how the outcome changes when you have more or fewer concepts in a search topic:
Number of Concepts
Good: Impact of obesity on the development of Type II Diabetes
obesity and Type II Diabetes= 2
33 results in
Good: How do high school dropouts rate their self-efficacy?
high school and dropouts and self-efficacy= 3
6 results in Academic Search Elite database
Too broad: Obesity
14.303 results in CINAHL Completedatabase
Too narrow: Do conflicts with 9th grade homeroom teachers result in students in Boston dropping out of school?
9th grade and homeroom and teachers and students and Boston and dropout= 6
0 results in Academic Search Elite database
Be Aware: Are you trying to support your personal opinion? Scholars focus on measurable research, and work to avoid bias. Your opinion may not be researched, or the research may support a different conclusion.
The premier online resource covering today’s hottest social issues, from offshore drilling to climate change, healthcare to immigration. Opposing Viewpoints in Context helps students research, analyze and organize a broad variety of data for conducting research, completing writing assignments, preparing for debates, creating presentations and more.
Offers analysis and opinions covering the pros, cons, and everything in between for 325 social, scientific, health, historic, economic, political, and global issues. Editorially created Topic Overview pages with engaging Essential Questions with answers, and viewpoint articles help build solid foundations for understanding the issues. Articles and graphics in SIRS Issues Researcher are carefully selected according to strict SIRS criteria for content reliability, relevance, and age-appropriateness.
Students, teachers, and librarians can use TOPICsearch to explore current events, social, political and economic issues, scientific discoveries, and other popular topics frequently discussed in the classroom. To support discussion, TOPICsearch contains full text for more than 85,000 articles from diverse content sources.
Latest from Pew Research Center
Grab topics of interest related to current research. The Pew Research Center is a great place to start; explore the website for ideas beyond the handful listed below.
Latest videos from TED
Select a short video below, or browse the TED website to find talks that will inspire and amaze you--and hopefully give you ideas for further research.
Keep an Interest Inventory
Develop a list of topics that intrigue you. Personal interest can drive your motivation and make the process meaningful.