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Basic Library Research & Writing: 1. Identify a Topic

Research

Choosing Your Topic

Sometimes your instructor will assign you a topic. Other times, you may be assigned a general subject that you need to select a specific aspect of, or a topic related to your class. Always check your faculty member's syllabus and/or assignment sheet for guidance in choosing a topic!

If you do not have an assigned topic, you will need to brainstorm to think of an appropriate issue to write about. There are various resources that can help you choose a pertinent topic. Some of these are:

  • Your textbook. Scan the table of contents, look at the index in the back of the book, and flip through applicable pages. Doing this may trigger some ideas to investigate farther.
  • Angelo State University Research Guides. If there is a general Research Guide encompassing your topic, scan through some of the resources (such as reference materials, books, journals, etc) to find a relevant topic that interests you. Examining these resources in more detail may help you to choose a topic.
  • For contemporary controversial issues, you can start by using resources in the box below, such as CQ Researcher, Issues and Controversies, or newspaper databases.  For non-controversial topics, look at Credo Reference, and Gale Virtual Reference Library or even Encyclopedia Brittannica for ideas.
  • Be sure not to choose too broad of a topic! There is no way that you can adequately cover issues such as alcoholism, climate change, the life of Picasso, etc., for a class assignment. However, you also have to have enough information, so don't choose a topic that is too narrow. It is often helpful to ask your professor if your topic can be suitably covered in your assignment. After identifying some keywords as explained on the next page, try searching in U-Search or other ASU databases to see if you can find enough information in articles and other sources for your selected topic. If not, choose another topic, and/or ask your professor!

 

-Mark Allan

Resources That Can Help You Choose Your Topic