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Choosing a Good Topic

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Choosing a topic that you find interesting is the next step toward making your research process a success. Research is much less tedious if you care about your topic. Use the ideas and exercises on this page to help you find, narrow, and refine your topic.

 Brainstorm possible topics.

Start by making a list of any possible topics that come to mind. Don't filter things yet. Just spend some time brainstorming topics that fit the general assignment criteria. 

If your teacher has provided you with a list of possible topics, then get that out instead.

Need some ideas?

Browse through encyclopedias, either in a library or online. Wikipedia can be great for this.

Use your textbook or class notes to get ideas. Flip back through previous sections to remember which topics interested you most.

Check out the Internet Public Library subject resources for inspiration. Pick the appropriate subject and then use the options on the left of the page to help you get more specific.

Talk to a friend. Brainstorming with a buddy can sometimes raise ideas you hadn't thought of.

Read back through the list of possible topics. Star any that seem interesting or intriguing. Star any that ignite a strong emotion (either positive or negative). Cross out any that seem boring to you. Cross out any that seem flat or overly simplistic.

You should be left with a handful of broad possible topics. Now it's time to move on to testing out your options.

Test out possibilities.

Once you have a few possible topics, it's a good opportunity to test them out.

Pick the most promising topic from your list.

Do a couple of internet searches. Look for information in an encyclopedia source like Encyclopedia Britannica. Skim through the lists of results.

Then, ask the following questions about your topic:

Has anyone written about this topic before?

Are there multiple articles, sources, interpretations, or perspectives on this topic?

Am I intrigued by the information I am finding?

If you answer "no" to any of these questions, you may want to reconsider that topic. 

If you answer "yes" to these questions, it's a good indication that might be a viable topic for your research project.

Refine your research topic.

As you start reading about and researching your topic, you will probably discover that it is too broad and will need to be narrowed down.

You can narrow your topic if you limit it by:

(ex: immigration in the 1980s)

(ex: scientific inventions made by women)

(ex: JFK's foreign policy in relation to Cuba)

(ex: the Pearl Harbor attack during WWII)

OR any combination of the 4 factors above

You will probably need to go through multiple phases of refining your topic. That's perfectly fine! Make note of each addition