The Research Process: Step 1: Choose a Topic

A getting started and step-by-step guide to the research process.

5 Steps to Develop a Topic

Developing a good research question or topic can be the most difficult part of the process. If you are struggling, follow the steps below.

1.  Look for Ideas
2.  Develop Research Questions
3.  Identify Keywords
4.  Find Background Information
5.  Refine Your Topic

Hot Topic Databases

Looking for Ideas

The Research Assignment

Before you start your research, make sure you understand your assignment. For example,

  • Are you assigned a topic or can you pick your own?
  • How many pages/words do you need to write? How long is your presentation?
  • Do you need to use specific types of sources? (e.g. scholarly journal, book, etc.)
  • When is the assignment due? How much time do you have to research?
  • Do you have questions? If so, talk to your instructor.

Can’t Think of a Topic? 

  • Skim your textbook for broad topic ideas.
  • Look at news sources to see what catches your eye.
  • Browse print and electronic encyclopedias.
  • Look at "hot topic" databases that include articles on current events and controversial issues.
  • Check out websites and resources listed on the Social Issues guide.
  • Discuss potential topics with your instructor, a librarian, or a classmate. 

Featured! Issues & Controversies
This database will help you understand today’s crucial issues by exploring hundreds of hot topics in politics, government, business, society, education, and popular culture. Use the search widget to start exploring Issues & Controversies.

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