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Beginning Your Research

Choose a topic

When you are asked to select a research topic, you may be given a list of suggested topics, you may be assigned a broad topic and asked to select a sub-topic, or you may be free to choose any topic for your research project.  When selecting a topic, be sure to choose a topic that interests you! Selecting a topic that interests you will help keep you engaged in the research process.  Some steps that you can take to choose a topic are to:

  • Brainstorm with your classmates          
  • Talk with your instructor or a reference librarian
  • Check the table of contents in your textbook for ideas
  • Browse our Research Guides for subject headings or check the current news of a discipline
  • Choose a research topic from the Library databases

Read your assignment instruction

Read the instructions in your assignments carefully and answer the following questions

  • What type of assignment is required? (Essays, reports & dissertations are three major types)
  • What are the assessment criteria?
  • Who are you writing the assignment for?
  • What is the length requirement of your assignment?
  • What is the amount of research required?
  • Are you asked to apply some concepts and techniques in your assignment?
  • And more ...

Your instructors know best about what is expected from your assignment. Talk to your instructors to find out what their expectations are.

Describe your topic and identify the main concept

After you have selected your topic, it is important to:

  • State your topic. It is often helpful to state your topic as a question.
  • Identify your keywords (the main ideas of your topic).
  • Think of different ways to describe your keywords.

Example topic: What are the effects of global warming on the habitat of polar bears?

Main concepts: (keywords): global warming, habitat, polar bears

Synonyms: greenhouse effect, ozone layer, earth's atmosphere, environment, territory, ursus maritimus

Resources for choosing your research topic