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The Research Process

Choosing a Topic

The first step of research is choosing a topic. To make the research process more enjoyable make sure your topic has the following qualities:

Interesting Choose a topic that YOU find interesting. Research is more fun when you find your topic interesting.
Timely If your topic is super new, there may not be much research on it yet. Make sure there is enough research available for you to complete your assignment.
Well-Researched You may think of a really interesting topic, but researchers may not find it important enough to study. Make sure your topic has been studied by researchers to ensure you have enough research for your assignment.

Step 1: Brainstorm

  • For five minutes, list out every topic you find interesting that is related to your class.
  • Choose your favorite topic in the list and follow the rest of the instructions below. Hold on to the list in case your first choice doesn't work out.
  • Use a relevant library database to make sure the topic is timely and well-researched.
  • If you are able to find research on your chosen topic, it's time to refine it.

Step 2: Refine

Now that you've determined that your topic is interesting, timely, and well-researched, it's time to make sure that it's manageable and not too broad or too narrow.

Too Broad?

If you feel overwhelmed by the amount of research or information you find on your topic, it may be too broad. Common ways to narrow your topic are to focus on a particular:

  • Age
  • Sex
  • Time period
  • Disease
  • Treatment
  • Geographic location (e.g. a country, state, or city)

One way to narrow a topic is to use more search filters in the library database you are using. Another way to narrow a topic is to skim through your search results and look for themes in what the researchers are studying.

Too Narrow?

If you search a library database and get zero or very few results, your topic may be too narrow. Make sure to search at least three relevant databases before deciding that your topic is too narrow.

If your topic is fairly detailed or long, remove some details from your topic and try searching again.

If you still have too few results, either explore a different topic or contact your subject librarian for help.



Print and use the worksheet below to help you choose a research topic.