Selecting a Topic for Your
First, Understand Your Assignment
Before you start thinking about a topic,
know what the assignment requires you to do.
- Do you have an assigned topic, or can you
choose your own?
- What is the goal of your research project? Possibilities may
- Show cause and effect
- Compare and contrast two things
- Take a stand on an issue
- Conduct original scientific research
- How long will your paper or report need to
- What kinds of information sources should you
- How many sources must you reference?
- Which citation style will you need to use in
Then, look for Something of Interest
Once you understand what's required, you
can begin looking for topics that will fit within the scope of the assignment.
Look for a topic that interests you, is
about something you care about, or has personal relevance in your life in
- Browse through newspaper headlines and
magazines for something that catches your interest.
- Keep an eye out for possible topics while
watching TV or listening to news reports on the radio.
- Jot down a note when you find yourself
asking, “I wonder why/what/how__________” in your class,
while studying, or any time.
- Browse through specialized encyclopedias on
broad areas of interest for possible ideas.
- Brainstorm. Your instructor can probably
show you a couple of good brainstorming techniques.
- Browse online resources, such as:
- Look through the books on the Library's
Now, Do Some Preliminary Background
Gain a basic, broad understanding of
your subject. This way, you'll begin to learn the language of your topic
(which will help you to find more information), and you'll discover aspects
to your subject which will allow you to focus your research.
Next, Narrow Your Topic
for strategies for narrowing your topic.