Q. How do I choose a topic?
Some tips for choosing a topic:
- Make sure your topic meets the assignment requirements. If you are unsure, ask your professor for feedback.
- Choose a topic that is interesting to you.
- Choose a topic that others have written about in order to find enough resources.
- Consider the scope of your topic. Is it too broad or too narrow?
Try these strategies for an effective research question:
- Background research will help you learn more about your topic, find keywords, and refine your research question.
- Brainstorm related concepts and keywords. For example, if your topic is "steroids in sports," write down synonymous words or related topics: performance-enhancing drugs, performance-enhancing substances, anabolic steroids, drug-use in sports, etc... Do a quick search on Wikipedia or another online site to see what other terms are associated with a topic.
- Limit your scope to manage your research. If you use a historical angle, then focus on a particular time period; for a geographical angle, focus on a particular part of the world; or a sociological angle, focus on a particular group of people.
- Start exploratory, in-depth research. As you start in-depth research, look for scholarly articles and books, then refine your topic based on what you find. Research is a dynamic process!
This topic development flowchart follows the path of your topic ideas to background research to the formulation of your topic question then to in-depth research and your research thesis or the answers to your research question:
Resources that help with topic development:
- Talk to your instructor.
- Read through your course readings and class notes for ideas.
- Wikipedia and Google searches are great for brainstorming key words and narrowing your topic, but aren't usually good sources for information
- Books are an excellent resource for background information (articles are typically much more narrowly focused).
- Reference books and databases such as Gale Virtual Reference Library and Oxford Reference Online.
- The Opposing Viewpoints and CQ Researcher databases can also be good for background information on controversial topics.
- Research Guides, created by Fresno State librarians, identify subject encyclopedias, books, databases, and other scholarly materials.
- Contact a librarian! Librarians are available via email, 24/7 chat, phone, and in-person at the Research Help Desk.
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