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Research 101 : Choosing a Topic

How do I choose a topic?

Step One:

The first step to choosing a research topic is to pick something you are interested in. Start with a broad general area and funnel down to a focused topic.

*An example would be choosing the cosmetics industry as a general area and then focusing on animal testing in the cosmetic industry.

I can’t think of a research topic, HELP! AKA Step Zero:

If you still cannot think of a topic you are interested in, these resources can help:

  • Gale in Context: Opposing Viewpoints: a one-stop shop that has tons of current issues that may spark your interest. It provides different viewpoints, reference materials, biographies, current media stories and even videos. 
  • TOPICsearch: a general database that has tons of information on lots of different topics. You can choose one of their listed topics and further refine that search to a specific timeframe and document type if you want. 
  • 401 Prompts for Argumentative Writing, New York Times: provides 401 topic ideas for research.

Topic Tips

  • Make sure you check with your instructor so that your topic fits with the assignment. You can also review your lecture notes and class readings for ideas on your topic.
  • It is helpful to look at some of the controversies, issues, and sub-topics of your general topic to get a better idea of what you may want to focus on.
  • You may end up changing your topic several times as you are researching so make sure you give yourself plenty of time to complete your assignment.
  • The goal of choosing your research topic is to formulate a research question. Make sure that your research question is open-ended. The answer must be explained, proven, or illustrated. Your research question should not be answered with a simple fact or yes or no. The question will most likely begin with how or why.

*An example: How has the negative view on animal testing affected the cosmetic industry?