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Research Process: 1a. Select a Topic

No matter what stage of the research process you're at--only beginning, stuck in the middle, or finishing up with citation polishing--this guide is a great resource for you.

Select a Topic

Step 1a: There are different scenarios when it comes to selecting a topic: 1) Choosing a topic you know well; 2) Choosing a topic you know nothing about; or 3) Choosing a topic you have an interest in, but you don't know where to begin.

But are you really, truly stumped? Can’t think of a topic to research? Try one of these ideas to get started: 

  • Scan your textbook for broad topic ideas.
  • Peruse current magazines, newspapers and journals to see what catches your eye.
  • Browse print and electronic encyclopedias.
  • Look at "hot topic" databases, such as Opposing Viewpoints, which feature articles on current events and controversial issues.
  • Discuss potential topics with your instructor, a librarian or a classmate.

The Research Assignment

Before selecting a topic or starting your research, make sure you understand your assignment and its requirements. Consider the following:

  • Have you been assigned a topic or can you pick your own?
  • How many pages/words do you need to write? How long is your presentation?
  • Do you need to include specific types of sources? (e.g. scholarly journal, book, etc.)
  • When is the assignment due? How much time do you have to research?
  • Is currency of information important?
When in doubt, consult with your instructor.

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