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Choose a Research Topic: Choose a Research Topic

This guide will help you understand how to develop your topic ideas into a manageable research topic.

Terms in this Guide

  • Information Literacy: The set of skills needed to find, retrieve, analyze, and use information.  
  • Research Process: It is a process of multiple deliberate steps in conducting the research work where each step is interlinked with other steps such as starting with a broad topic question to focus on an aspect of it to narrow the research focus to all the way to find and evaluate the reliability of that information.  The most important thing to realize is that this is not a linear process. 

Step 1: Choose a Broad Research Topic

Research is a long process. Try to choose a broad topic that is interesting to you and that fits the assignment parameters set by the professor.

Read through background information in an encyclopedia, dictionary, or database to learn about aspects of the topic that might interest you.

Broad Topic: global warming

If you are unsure of what topic to start with, review the sources below for ideas.

Step 2: Narrow & Focus Your Topic

If you are getting too many search results, then it is time to limit your topic to a particular approach to the issue!

Consider writing about one of these aspects of your broad topic:

  • Theme (a particular opinion, focus, or point of view)
  • Timeframe (period, date)
  • Place (city, state, region, country, continent)
Broad topic: global warming
Narrower topic: Global warming, effects on environment, rising sea levels or deforestation

Step 3. Write a Topic Statement

Now turn your narrow topic into a topic statement by writing it out as a short sentence. This is known as a thesis or topic statement. It expresses the subject and purpose of your paper.

Broad topic: global warming
Narrower topic: Global warming, effects on environment, rising sea levels or deforestation
Topic Statement: Global warming is having severe effects on the environment and threatening coastal populations by causing rising sea levels.

Step 4. Evaluate your Topic Statement

Ask yourself the following questions to evaluate the quality of your topic statement:

  • Is this statement interesting enough to spark my own thoughts and opinions?
  • What type of information will I need to support the topic statement?
  • Is the scope of this topic statement reasonable? Or does it need to be focused even further?
  • What sources will have the type of information that I need to answer the research question?
  • Can I access these sources? If yes, where can I get the material I need? (textbook, library book, online databases, personal interviews?)
  • Given my answers to the above questions, do I have a good quality topic statement that I will be able to answer by doing research?
    • If yes, it's time to start your project!
    • If not, you may need guidance. Talk to your professor, librarian, and/or a Writing, Reading & Language Center tutor if you are unsure.

Research Cycle

"Develop a Topic." Lightbulb.

Try It

"Try It!" with blank notebook and pencil

Watch this tutorial and practice using the activities / answering questions.

Learn More

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Check these resources below to learn more about how to develop a manageable research topic and select appropriate source types.

More Research Skills Guides

Want to learn more? View our other research skills guides:

MC Library Research Skills Guides