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EMPOWER: Choosing Your Topic: Home

Choosing Your Topic

This module covers methods for choosing and narrowing the topic of a research project.

When you have completed this module of EMPOWER, you will be able to:

  • define the purpose of your research
  • broaden and narrow a topic
  • build a research question from your topic
  • write a defendable thesis statement

Know Your Assignment

binocularsBefore you can choose a topic, consider why you are looking for information.

Have you been assigned a research project? It is important to understand your assignment.

Do you have a personal question or problem you need to research? You may need help defining your research question.

If you have a research assignment, make sure you understand the assignment before you begin:

  • Are you limited to certain types of sources? How many sources?
  • How long should your paper be? Does this include a separate title page or bibliography page?
  • What topics can be chosen?
  • Is this an informative or persuasive paper?
  • Which style or format should be used for the bibliography page?
  • When is the assignment due? Is anything besides the final paper required? (This may include an outline, rough draft, or photocopies of sources.)

What will you write about?

Once you understand the assignment, you need to decide on a topic. To help with ideas:

  • Browse for topics in articles or books that you read for fun, or that relate to your course work.
  • Talk to your classmates or your instructor.
  • Go to the Writing Center on the library first floor.
  • Browse a database like Academic Search Complete and read abstracts (more about using electronic databases is in the module called Finding Articles).

If you still need help, talk to a reference librarian or connect with us online at LibAnswers.