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Tips for Developing Your Topic

Get tips on developing your essay, oral presentation or paper topic.

1. Choose Your Topic

Once you have an assignment, choosing a topic is the first basic step in the research process. In some cases, you will be assigned a specific topic for your research paper. In other cases you will be able to complete your research on a topic of your choice. If you are able to choose your own topic, consider the following:

  • Choose a topic that is of interest to you. You will be spending quite a bit of time doing research and writing your paper--interest in the topic can make the process much easier.
  • Make sure your topic meets the guidelines set by your instructor. The easiest way to do this is to have your assignment with you when you choose your topic. It can be helpful to highlight key requirements so you can stay focused. If there are any doubts, consult with your instructor.

2. Get an Overview of your Topic

A quick check of some key databases can give you an overview of your topic. This can save time in the long run by giving you a good grasp of the various issues affecting your topic.

For Current Topics

For Other Topics

Tips for Specific Subjects


3. State your Topic as a Question

Putting your topic in the form of a question can help you clarify and focus your topic. For example, if you are interested in finding out about the use of alcohol by college students, you might state the question as "What effect does the use of alcohol have on the health of college students?"

Keep that question in mind as you look at resources such as articles. Ask yourself if the article you are looking at will help you answer your topic question--if it won't, move on to the next article. If you can't find any that will answer it, you may need to change your topic question.

It also helps to identify the main concepts in your question. These terms can be used as keywords when searching for sources. In this case the main concepts are

  • alcohol
  • health
  • college students.