Choose a topic you’re interested in
Background reading can help you choose and limit the scope of your topic. Do background research using reference materials like dictionaries and encyclopedias.
- Gather key facts, dates, events and names
- Get a historical overview
- Define key terms
Stay within assignment guidelines
Refine your topic
- Narrow your topic if your topic is too broad. Otherwise, you will find too much information and not be able to focus. Narrow by time period, location, specific demographic, or a particular aspect of the subject.
- Broaden your topic if there is not enough information or research available or if it’s too specific.
- If too specific, generalize your subject
- If too new for much to have been written, consider changing topics
- Use a variety of source material - different databases, books, government reports
- Change your search terms (keywords) - you may be using terms that are not subject-specific or are too specific
Think of the who, what, where, when and why questions
- WHY did you choose the topic? What interests you about it? Do you have an opinion about the issues involved?
- WHO are the information providers on this 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? Is there a debate about the topic? Are there a range of issues and viewpoints to consider?
- 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? Do you want to compare your topic by time periods?