Picking Your Topic
Sometimes you have too many ideas... or you have no idea where to begin.
- Make sure you understand your assignment. Talk to your professor or graduate assistant if you have any questions.
- Think about your interests. What would you like to spend time learning more about? Look over your course materials and lecture notes for ideas. Write down a list of keywords and phrases that interest you.
- Use a topic ideas database such as CQ Researcher. Read current periodicals, browse the internet, and check out reference resources and encyclopedias such as Gale Virtual Reference Library.
- Be careful not to pick a topic too narrow or too broad. You might not be able to find enough relevant information or you might be overwhelmed with too much information. As you start your research, you might need to adjust your topic. See below for narrowing/broadening tips.
- Check out the Research Guide for your subject area, which will include links to helpful resources commonly used by researchers. Our subject specialist librarians create these guides -- contact yours with questions and to get personalized help with your research.
Narrowing/broadening a topic tips
If your topic is broad, consider asking yourself the 5 W's (who, what, when, where, why) and trying a combination of these elements with your broad topic:
- WHO: Population (age, gender, ethnicity, etc.)
- WHAT: Type based on the topic (example: topic is renewable energy, types could be wind energy, solar energy, etc.)
- WHEN: Choose a timeframe (time period or time in life)
- WHERE: Choose a location (states, region, country, etc.)
- WHY: Why does it matter to research this topic?
Examples with the topic concussions in sports:
- WHO: Kid sports and concussions
- WHAT: Kids and football concussions
- WHEN: College football players and concussions
- WHERE: Concussions of college football players in the United States
- WHY: Effects of concussions on college football players later in life
If you're not finding information on your topic, it might be too narrow and needs to be broadened. Consider removing a word or element from your research question/thesis/topic.