Skip to Main Content

Online Class Library Research Guide: Topic

English 1000

Looking for Topic Ideas

Sources listed below are good for finding topics and background information on topics.

Video: From Idea to Topic to Search Strategy: Concept Mapping Technique

Selecting a Topic

Choosing a topic can be challenging especially if your instructor gives you an "open topic" to write on anything...

A good topic is one that:

  • Is interesting
  • You want to know more about
  • Is intellectually engaging
  • You heard in the news
  • You read in your textbook and other class readings
  • Your instructor mentioned

The sources listed in the first column can also help you find topics.

Narrowing a Topic

Students often start with broad topics such as Global Warming, Immigration, Eating Disorders, Environment, etc.

Narrow your topic into something manageable:

  • Create a concept map  (see video on the left) -- A concept map is a visual display of concepts and relationships among ideas
       Concept Map Tool:
       Keyword Map: A keyword map for the whole Internet---use it to generate related concepts
  • Think of narrower facets, different angles to your topic
  • Read encyclopedia articles -- paragraph headers are often narrower topics
  • Think of Who (population); What (types); When (time frame); Where (Places); Why (evaluate) questions

  • Example: Eating Disorders 
    WHO---Age, Gender, Race, Ethnicity
    WHAT---Anorexia, bulimia, Compulsive Eating

    WHY---Causes, Treatment, outcomes

A Research Question

Formulating a research question can be the hardest part of the process.

A research question is what you really want to find/discover. It is a clear, focused, concise, complex and arguable question around which you center your research. It guides your literature search.

State your research topic as a question.

Sample Research Question: Is there a relationship between stress and eating disorders among college students?

Remember:  Once you have a research question, you are not stuck with it.  You can adjust, refocus your research question once you start researching.