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Research Toolkit: Choosing a Topic

  • Make sure your topic meets the assignment requirements. 
    If you're not sure, ask your professor for feedback.
  • Read through your course readings and notes for ideas.
  • Choose a topic that is interesting to you. Curiosity is an excellent motivator!
  • Choose a topic that others have written about in books and articles so that you can find sources.

Three Strategies for narrowing a broad topic:


Strategy 1: Ask Questions

Think about the questions you have about your topic. One way is to think about who, what, when, where, why, and how questions. For example, if your topic is "tacos," your questions might be:

  • Who is affected by tacos in the U.S.?
  • Where are taco ingredients sourced from?
  • When did the taco first appear on the scene?
  • What is a truly authentic taco?
  • Why do people love tacos so much?
  • How have tacos changed over time?

Strategy 2: Concept Mapping

Create a concept map by thinking of all the possible aspects of your topic, and draw the connections between them. You can use a pen and paper to sketch out a map or use an online tool.

Concept mapping tools: Pen and paper, Google


handrawn concept map about vegetarianism


Strategy 3: Read Background Info

Knowing a bit more about your topic is helpful. Reading background information can help you discover a great research question. Some sources for background reading:

  • Search Library OneSearch to find books and articles about your area of interest.
  • Look at Wikipedia for background information.
    • Note: Wikipedia is not an authoritative source to cite because an author's expertise may not be clear or established. Wikipedia can be useful to gain a preliminary understanding of your topic and to find other resources.