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Information Literacy: Choosing a Topic: Home




Starting Your Research

Check the assignment details: 

  • What is your Professor asking for? 
  • How long does your paper have to be? 
  • What sort of resources do you have to use?                     

Brainstorm research ideas:

  • Make sure you choose a topic that's interesting to you
  • Is there something you have studied in class that you would like to learn more about?
  • Having trouble thinking of a topic? Ask a Librarian for help!                                                

Explore background information:

  • Explore library resources to learn more about your topic                                    
  • Library Encyclopedias, Google searches, newspaper and magazine articles, and Wikipedia are all good places to start


Need Help Choosing a Topic?

► Want to learn more about current social issues? The library has a number of useful resources that can help you think about possible research ideas:


Opposing Viewpoints is an excellent resource for exploring all sides of a topic. The site focuses on today's hottest social issues like immigration, marijuana reform, and capital punishment.

Explore the updated online encyclopedia from Britannica with hundreds of thousands of articles, biographies, videos, images, and web content. A great place to do some background research on potential topics. 

Credo Reference is an online reference collection. It contains over 900 online encyclopedias, subject dictionaries, biographies, and study tools. Instead of always relying on Wikipedia, try using Credo for even more reliable information! 

Narrow or Broaden Your Topic

► If you are having trouble finding the resources you need, you may need to narrow or broaden your topic. Consider the following examples:

Narrowing your topic

Is your topic too broad?

  • Is your searching giving you too much information? Too many search results? 
  • Is it too hard to cover your topic in detail?                                                                                                                                         

Example:I want to write a paper on "fashion." This topic is clearly too broad will need to be narrowed down: 

Ask yourself questions about your topic:

  • What aspects of the topic are you interested in: the history of fashion, its social effects, etc.?

  • What time period do you want to cover?

  • Is their a particular group or population that you want to focus on: teenagers, women, etc.?

  • What geographic region are you interested in: United States, New York, etc.?

  • What kind of information do you think you need? Has it been written about before?


Broadening Your Topic

Is your topic too narrow? 

  • Is your searching giving you back too little information?  Too few search results? 
  • Is your topic too new? Is it something that has yet to be researched in the academic literature?

Example: I want to write a paper on "how legalizing marijuana would affect crime rates in the United States."  

Look for parallels and opportunities for broader associations:

  • Could you examine other previously banned substances, in addition to marijuana?

  • Could you think broadly about safety concerns and issues -- what might these be?

  • Who are the key actors in this controversy? The FDA? The Local Police? Consumer activists? 

  • What other issues are involved? Such as "How should prescription drugs be managed?​                                                                                                                                    



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