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Research Process: Choosing a Topic

Tips from topic selection to evaluating sources to aid in the research process


General Suggestions

Start by browsing the information on your topic. As you read you will find issues that interest you and have information available. Browse the book stacks in an area of your interest, (use the Library of Congress Subject Headings). Use Academic Search Premier or ProQuest Research Library to skim magazine and journal articles on several topics.

Reference sources show you the lay of the land on the topic. They give an overview, introduce the notable people in the field, explain the controversies and give suggested readings in the bibliography. Browse articles in the Gale Virtual Reference Library.

Find a question that needs answering. Don’t just rehash old data. Use the information you read to answer a research question.

Use lateral thinking. If the information you are finding is not supporting your thesis, think outside the box to see how you can find the information you need or change your thesis.

Research Topic Tutorial

Diana Hacker on topic selection

Experiment with ways to explore your subject.
Instead of just plunging into a first draft, experiment with one or more techniques for exploring your subject  - perhaps talking and listening, annotating texts and taking notes, listing, clustering, freewriting, or asking the journalist’s questions. Whatever technique you turn to, the goal is the same:  to generate a wealth of ideas that will lead you to a question, problem, or an issue that you want to explore further.  At this early stage of the writing process, don’t censor yourself. Sometimes an idea that initially seems trivial or far-fetched will turn out to be worthwhile.“  Hacker, D. (2009) A Writer’s Reference, 6th ed. New York: Bedford/St. Martins. p.3