Before choosing a topic, make sure you understand your assignment. Read your assignment and look for:
Make sure you understand your assignment’s purpose. Are you supposed to take a side in an existing argument, explain a problem, propose a position, describe a project or process, or do something else?
If you find that you cannot describe what your assignment is about to someone else, either read it again or ask your instructor for clarification.
Choosing an interesting research topic can be hard. Where can you turn to for ideas?
Most importantly, think about topics that interest you.
Before you develop your research topic or question, you'll need to do some background research first.
Some good places to find background information:
Try the library databases below to explore your topic. They contain many different kinds of encyclopedias and dictionaries and are excellent starting points for getting an overview on your topic as well as possible search terms to use later. Try them. See other examples listed on the Get Background Info tab. When you're ready, move on to focusing your topic.
Find Background Information:
Now that you've done some background research, it's time to focus your topic. Here are some suggestions for narrowing and defining your topic:
Applying the 5 W's -- who, what, when, where, why, and how -- to your topic can also help you begin to find a more focused issue within that topic that will work well for your assignment.
Describe and develop your topic in some detail. Try filling in the blanks in the following statements from Wayne Booth's The Craft of Argument so you can move from a big, broad topic to one that is interesting and manageable:
I am working on the topic of ___________
because I want to find out who / what / when / where / why / how_____________
in order to help my reader better understand ______________.
Try visualizing your topic to explore all of the different angles, ideas, and key concepts related to your topic. This is a good brainstorming exercise and can also help focus your topic into a research question.
The tools below can help you visualize your topic.