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Research Guides

Develop Research Topics

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What to expect from this guide

Hello! This guide will help you discover topic ideas and develop them to fit your assignment. It includes advice on:

  • Finding an interesting and appropriate topic for your research
  • Testing your idea's potential sources of information
  • Knowing when to narrow or broaden the focus of your research topic

Tips to keep in mind

Picking a topic is often the most challenging part of doing research. The stakes seem very high: pick a "bad" topic and the rest of the research process will be difficult. But with so many topic ideas out there, how do you choose one that is right for your assignment? This guide will cover the basics, but keep in mind these pointers:

  • Is the topic appropriate for the assignment? If your paper is meant to be 4 pages long, picking an enormous, broad topic won't work. And if you're in a medieval history class, a paper on social media would present a challenge. Talk to your professor about your topic ideas to make sure you are on the right track.
  • Are you able to make an argument? The topic "is smoking bad for your health?" would be difficult because there is no argument to make (the science is pretty conclusive that yes, it's bad for your health).
  • Do you care about your topic? If you pick a random topic just to get the assignment over with, it will be painful to go through the research process. However, if you pick something that interests you, it will be much more enjoyable.