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Research Tips

Finding a topic


Woman looking at questionmarks


There are a number of ways to find a topic for your paper or project:

  • Course Material: Look back over your class lecture notes, readings, and through your textbook.
  • Brainstorm: Speak with classmates, professors or TAs to get ideas.
  • Use Library Resources: Check out the resources below to help find a topic.
  • Think about your own interests: This is your project, so pick something you find interesting.

Library resources

The library has a number of resources that may help you find a topic of interest.

Gale Virtual Reference Library

Collection of online reference books published by Gale. Many of the books in this database are specialized encyclopedias in specific subject areas.  For example, Encyclopedia of the Social and Cultural Foundations of Education and The Gale Encyclopedia of Neurological Disorders.

CQ Researcher

In-depth reports on current and controversial issues with complete summaries, pro and con discussions of all sides of the issues, bibliographies and more.

Credo Reference

Collection of electronic reference books, dictionaries, and encyclopedias.

News and Newspapers Research Guide

This guide points you to databases that have news and newspapers within them. You can search in these databases to find coverage on your potential topic or brainstorm topics using keyword searching.

Next steps

Once you have a topic in mind, you can do some preliminary or background research to help you define your topic by either broadening or narrowing your topic to a manageable research project.  The library resources listed above can help with this process.  You can also look at a Research Guide in your larger topical area to find specialized databases on your subject area.  Here is a link to the Research Guides, which are organized by college or discipline, or general topic. 

Remember, when beginning your research:

  • Break down your topic question into key words prior to searching in the database
  • It is helpful to brainstorm key words, subjects, terms and concepts associated with your main topic. Thinking about similar words that can be used to describe your topic can be helpful when searching.
  • Use these keywords to create searches in library databases to find journal articles and other information on your selected topic.
If you have questions or need help refining your topic make an appointment with a reference librarian with subject specialty in your area, or ask our live chat.