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I Need Help Choosing A Topic
Tips for Deciding on a Research Topic
Once you have a broad topic in mind, these strategies will help you refine your research focus:
- Background research can help you learn more about your topic, and may also help you refine your focus. By knowing more about your topic's background, you can develop a more effective topic and a stronger research paper. Watch this video to better understand the need for background research.
- Brainstorm concepts. Think of words or concepts that relate to that topic. (For example, if your topic is "polar bears," associated words might include: ice, cubs, pollution, hunting, diet, and environmental icon.)
- Develop a research question. Once you have a broad research topic and have done some background research, develop a research question. What about this topic interests you and is likely to also engage your readers? Here is a tutorial to better understand on how to develop a research question.
- What's your general approach to the topic? Your research could, for example, use a historical angle (focusing on a particular time period); a geographical angle (focusing on a particular part of the world); or a sociological angle (focusing on a particular group of people). The angle you choose will depend largely on the nature of your research question and often on the class or the academic discipline in which you are working.
- Start doing some exploratory, in-depth research. As you look for relevant sources, such as scholarly articles and books, refine your topic based on what you find. While examining sources, consider how others discuss the topic. How might the sources inform or challenge your approach to your research question?
- Research is a dynamic process. Be prepared to modify or refine your topic. This is usually the sign of thoughtful and well-done research. Here is a video/tutorial on understanding research process.
The topic development process below can help you to develop your thesis (your proposed answer to your research question) and to continue gather additionally needed sources. Video on developing a thesis statement.
Resources to help you develop your topic:
- Your instructor, NWACC librarians, course readings, class notes, encyclopedia and other pre research tools.
- Library resources like Issues list from Opposing Viewpoints and subject-specific encyclopedias: overviews and introductions to topics that can also help you identify research topics and gain background knowledge.
- This guide as well helps you identify encyclopedias, search tools and other materials to arrive at a topic.
- This tutorial will instruct how to
- a. Arrive at a topic which is manageable and
- b. Craft a research question from your topic.