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Choosing a Research Topic: Home

Choose a Research Topic

Many classes require students to complete a research project. The first step in a research project is choosing a topic, a multistep process that results in a topic statement. Use the following guidelines to develop a topic statement:
Start With a Broad Topic

  • Select a topic that interests you. You are going to be working on this project for a while, so try to find one that is interesting and that you can reasonably cover within the assignment parameters set by the professor.
  • Read through background information to learn about different aspects of the topic that might interest you. Take a few minutes to read broadly about your topic in an encyclopedia, dictionary, or database. Some suggested sources are listed below: 

Narrow and Focus Your Topic

Narrow your topic to a more manageable focus. The most common problem in library research arises when a student chooses a topic that is too broad and is faced with an overwhelming amount of published material. To make a broad topic more manageable, it is essential to focus on a specific area of the topic. A common way to narrow a topic is to consider writing about one of these aspects of the topic:

  • Theme (a particular opinion, focus, or point of view)
  • Timeframe (period, date)
  • Place (city, state, region, country, continent)

Write a Topic Statement
Turn your narrow topic into a topic statement. Once you have chosen a narrower focus, write it out as a short sentence. This is known as a thesis or topic statement. It expresses the subject and purpose of your paper.

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?
  • Is there information available about this topic statement?
  • 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?
  • Given the type and scope of the information that I need, is my topic statement too broad, too narrow, or okay?
  • What sources will have the type of information that I need to answer the research question (journals, books, Internet resources, government documents, and people)?
  • 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?
    • YES! Start your project!
    • NO! You need guidance. Talk to your professor, librarian, and/or a Writing, Reading & Language Center tutor if you are unsure.

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