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Research Process: Step 1: Select a Topic

How to write a paper at the Davis Library and University of Rio Grande & Rio Grande Community College

Selecting a Topic

The ability to develop a good research topic is an important skill. An instructor may assign you a specific topic, but most often instructors require you to select your own topic of interest. When deciding on a topic, there are a few things that you will need to do:

  • Brainstorm for ideas.
  • Choose a topic that will enable you to read and understand the articles and books you find.
  • Ensure that the topic is manageable and that material is available.
  • Make a list of key words.
  • Be flexible. You may have to broaden or narrow your topic to fit your assignment or the sources you find.

Selecting a good topic may not be easy. It must be narrow and focused enough to be interesting, yet broad enough to find adequate information. Before selecting your final topic, make sure you know what your final project should look like. Each class or instructor will likely require a different format or style of research project.

Brainstorming for a Topic

Choose a topic that interests you. Use the following questions to help generate topic ideas.

  • Do you have a strong opinion on a current social or political controversy?
  • Did you read or see a news story recently that has piqued your interest or made you angry or anxious?
  • Do you have a personal issue, problem, or interest that you would like to know more about?
  • Is there an aspect of a class that you are interested in learning more about?

Write down any key words or concepts that may be of interest to you. These terms can be helpful in your searching and used to form a more focused research topic.

Be aware of overused ideas when deciding a topic. You may wish to avoid topics such as abortion, gun control, teen pregnancy, or suicide unless you feel you have a unique approach to the topic. Ask the instructor for ideas if you feel you are stuck or need additional guidance.

If you need help, try our Research Topic Guide for ideas.

Sometimes using a Concept Map can help you come up with directions to take your research.

Selecting a Topic - Kansas State University