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Developing a Research Topic: Home

Information about how to develop, narrow, and broaden a research topic.


This guide will help you develop your research topic.  Use the tips on this page to help you brainstorm a topic.  

The page on narrowing your topic uses the metaphor of circling the lighthouse to illustrate how to narrow down your research topic.  

Finally, find information about getting research & writing help from experienced researchers and writers.  

Background Information

Find background information, or an overview of your topic, in books and encyclopedias.  Reading an introduction to a broad topic may help you select a specific aspect of the topic to research.

Develop a Topic

Select a topic that interests you!

This will make the research process MUCH easier. Think about...

  • WHY did you choose this topic? What interest do you have in the topic? Do you have an opinion about the issues involved? How much do you know about your topic?
  • WHO might publish information about it? Who is affected by the topic? Do you know of organizations or institutions affiliated with the topic?
  • WHAT are the major questions for this topic? Are there a range of issues and viewpoints to consider? Where would you like to go with your topic?
  • WHERE is your topic important: at the local, national or international level?  Are there specific places affected by the topic?
  • WHEN is/was your topic important?  Is it a current event or an historical issue?

To find research topic ideas...

  • Scan your textbook and other class readings for topic ideas and suggestions
  • Draw on what you have read or seen recently that interests you
  • Pick a topic relevant to your life

A well-focused topic is essential for an effective search. To focus your topic...

  • Develop a tentative focus then list what you already know and questions you have about the topic
  • Find and read through background information
  • Choose a particular perspective (viewpoint) on the issue
  • Limit your topic to a specific time period
  • Make a list of keywords
  • Write out your topic as a statement and select the main concepts/ideas
  • Make a list of additional words (synonyms) that describe your topic

Choosing a Topic Tutorial

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