This guide provides you with a list of topic ideas (by subject or academic discipline) which could be developed into a research paper or project. It is not an all inclusive list, but a list developed over time with input from faculty and students.
It is intended to offer suggestions only.
This is NOT a guide to help you research a topic. It is only intended to provide ideas for a paper.
The ability to develop a good research topic is an important skill. An instructor may assign you a specific topic, but most often instructors require you to select your own topic of interest. When deciding on a topic, there are a few things that you will need to do:
Selecting a good topic may not be easy. It must be narrow and focused enough to be interesting, yet broad enough to find adequate information. Before selecting your final topic, make sure you know what your final project should look like. Each class or instructor will likely require a different format or style of research project.
Choose a topic that interests you. Use the following questions to help generate topic ideas.
Write down any key words or concepts that may be of interest to you. These terms can be helpful in your searching and used to form a more focused research topic.
Be aware of overused ideas when deciding a topic. You may wish to avoid topics such as abortion, gun control, teen pregnancy, or suicide unless you feel you have a unique approach to the topic. Ask the instructor for ideas if you feel you are stuck or need additional guidance.
Sometimes using a Concept Map can help you come up with directions to take your research.
Read a general encyclopedia article on the top two or three topics you are considering.
Reading a broad summary enables you to get an overview of the topic and see how your idea relates to broader, narrower, and related issues. It also provides a great source for finding words commonly used to describe the topic. These keywords may be very useful to your later research.
If you can't find an article on your topic, try using broader terms and ask for help from a librarian.
The databases listed below are good places to find general information. The library's print reference collection can also be useful and is located on the third floor of the library.
Keep it manageable and be flexible. If you start doing more research and not finding enough sources that support your thesis, you may need to adjust your topic.
A topic will be very difficult to research if it is too broad or narrow. One way to narrow a broad topic such as "the environment" is to limit your topic. Some common ways to limit a topic are:
Example: What environmental issues are most important in the Southwestern United States?
Example: How does the environment fit into the Navajo world view?
Example: What are the most prominent environmental issues of the last 10 years?
Example: How does environmental awareness effect business practices today?
Example: What are the effects of air pollution on senior citizens?
Remember that a topic may be too difficult to research if it is too:
Example: What sources of pollution affect the Genesee County water supply?
Example: How can the environment contribute to the culture, politics and society of the Western United States?
Putting your topic in the form of a question will help you focus on what type of information you want to collect.
If you have any difficulties or questions with focusing your topic, discuss the topic with your instructor, or with a librarian.