Decide on a Topic

Research is a form of problem solving, and the first step in problem solving is always identify the problem.  In other words, what question do you hope to answer with your research?

You will work from general to specific to decide on a topic.

1. Pick your subject area

  • It’s important to choose something that will hold your interest.
  • Explore reference materials and quality web sites for background on your topic.
  • If you’re stuck, try mind-mapping. This is a visual, “right-brained” method of brainstorming.

2. Zero in on one particular topic

You narrow down a topic by adding concepts. Each concept you add focuses it.

You want a topic that’s broad enough that you have enough material to write about, but narrow enough that you can cover all the important points in the number of pages allowed. If you feel your topic isn’t narrow enough at this stage, that’s all right. Research is a repetitive, cyclical process, and your topic will evolve when you do your background research.

Click through the mini-slideshow below to learn how to narrow a research topic by adding concepts. To enlarge it, click the menu icon in the lower-left corner of the box and select “view full screen.”

text version is available here.

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a brief course in information literacy