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Research Process: Finding a Topic

This guide focuses on the skills and resources needed to complete a research project.

Not Enough Information?

Not enough information?
Read background information. Think of related ideas.

Your topic is too specific Generalize. EX: your topic is genetic diversity for a specific ethnic group in Ghana, Africa-->broaden to all ethnic groups in Ghana or in West Africa.
Your topic is too new Search databases that contain newspaper articles.
Have you checked enough databases? Use the Research Databases by Subject list to find specialized databases.
You are using too much jargon. Use a thesaurus. How is your topic expressed by experts? What terms are commonly found in citations and bibliographies?


Below are links to online reference resources to help you narrow your broad topics to a narrower focus:

Get Started!

Need to find a topic for your speech or research paper? Not sure where to start?

Here is what you find in this guide:

  • Topic Ideas This is a good place to start if you have a hard time deciding even what general subject area you might be interested in. You'll find simple lists of broad topics (e.g., environment, health, etc.), as well as links to information about some specific subjects.
  • Explore will help you find reference sources to gather some background information about your topic.

Topic Ideas

Below are links to topic lists from various institutions, some of which contain further links to information resources.

Narrow your Topic

Too much information?
Try limiting your topic to one of the following aspects:

Theory Limit your topic to just one school of thought. EX: your topic concerns the effects of television on children-->narrow your approach to social learning theory.
Sub-Topic Explore a specific aspect of your topic. EX: your topic is human cloning-->investigate government regulation of cloning.
Time Span Choose a specific time period. EX: your topic is assisted suicide-->contrast public attitudes in the 1980's versus the 2000's.
Population Focus on a specific age, sex, race, occupation, species or ethnic group. EX: on a topic in genetics, examine specific traits as they affect women over 40 years of age.
Location Consider a geographic analysis. EX: if your topic concerns cloning, investigate cloning practices in Europe or the Middle East.