Selecting a topic is one of the most important steps of your research. Defining and refining your topic is an ongoing process. Be prepared to adjust the focus of your topic as you gather more information.
These are some general guidelines to follow:
- Interesting: Select a subject you can get interested in. Since you will be spending a considerable amount of time researching your topic, you will want it to be something that holds your interest and that of the reader. (Use your textbook, course materials, and encyclopedias for ideas)
- Focus: Make sure that your topic isn't too broad or too specific. If the topic is too broad, you will be overwhelmed with information. If the topic is too narrow, you may not be able to find enough information for your research paper. A good first step is trying to ask a question about your topic to give you both a focus and structure. Then, identify the key concepts in your research question.
Topic: Drinking on campus
Research Question: What effect does alcohol have on college students?
Key Concepts: alcohol AND college students
Related terms: binge drinking adolescents
- Background Information: Do an exploratory search on your topic to gather general information. A good place to check is your textbook, an encyclopedia, or if you are considering a current issue, try one of the library's general databases.