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Library DIY

Choosing a topic

Tips for Choosing a Research Topic

  • Read the assignment requirements carefully. If you are unsure what topic would be relevant, talk to your instructor.
  • Choose a topic you find interesting.
  • Choose a topic that others have written about in order to find enough resources.
  • Consider the scope of the topic. How broad or narrow is it?
    • If your topic is too broad it may be difficult to find focused and relevant information. The topic also should be focused enough that it is meaningful to your audience.
    • It may be hard to find information on a very narrow topic. If your topic is highly focused, be more flexible in your search strategy. For example, if you're interested in organic food labeling in a specific city, widen your information search to organic food labeling within the United States. Also think about what topic will be meaningful to your audience. What relevance will the topic have to them?


Once you have a topic in mind, try these strategies for an effective research question:

  • Background research will help you learn more about your topic, find keywords, and refine your research question. 
  • Brainstorm related concepts and keywords. For example, if your topic is "polar bears,"  write down synonymous words or related topics: ice, cubs, global warming, hunting, diet, and "environmental icon"
  • Limit your scope to manage your research. If you use a historical angle, then focus on a particular time period; for a geographical angle, focus on a particular part of the world; or a sociological angle, focus on a particular group of people.
  • Start exploratory, in-depth research. As you start in-depth research, look for scholarly articles and books, then refine your topic based on what you find. Research is a dynamic process!

The topic development process below can help you to develop your thesis (your proposed answer to your research question) and to continue gather additionally needed sources.


Resources to help you develop your topic:

  • Your instructor, DU librarians, course readings, class notes, Wikipedia, and Google.
  • Library resources like Gale eBooks provide overviews and introductions to topics that can help you identify research topics and gain background knowledge.
  • Library Guides: online guides that help you identify encyclopedias, books, databases, and other materials.
  • Credo Tutorial: Choosing a Topic