1. Brainstorm possible topic ideas
- Consider your personal interests.
- Engage in conversations in class or with classmates.
- Read articles in encyclopedias or dictionaries and review class readings.
- Browse recent issues of journals or magazines from the Current Periodicals shelves, located to the left of the Circulation Desk when you enter the Library.
- Browse the shelves for books on your subject (see the Library of Congress Classification System listing to know where to look).
2. Review assignment requirements
- What kind of assignment is it – 5 minute oral presentation, 10 page paper, 50 page paper?
- How much information do you need?
- Does it need to be recent information?
- What types of publications do you want to read – newspaper articles, books, journal articles, diaries, trade publications?
- What formats do you need – visual, audio, printed, electronic?
- Is point of view an issue? Do you need opinions?
- How much time do you have?
3. List keyword to define your topic
- State your research topic as a question.
- Think about the significant terms, concepts, and keywords that describe your topic. These terms will become the key for searching for information about your subject in library catalogs, online databases, and other resources.
- Sample keywords for research topic “How did New Deal programs influence the arts in America?”:
- New Deal
- United States
- Federal Aid to the Arts
4. Gather background information on your topic
It’s hard to get started if you don’t know much about your topic. Do some general reading in things like encyclopedias and subject-specific dictionaries to get an overview of the topic. This is also a great first step towards refining your topic.
This guide has been adapted, with permission, for Mount Aloysius College from the Duke University Libraries “Choosing a Topic.”
If you have questions about the proper citation of any source types, consult with an appropriate style manual or our research guide. The manuals listed below are available at the Reference Desk:
•Chicago Manual of Style: 16th Edition • A Manual for Writer of Research Paper, Theses, and Dissertations: Chicato Style for Students and Researchers: 7th Edition (Turabian) • MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers: 8th Edition • Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association: 6th Edition.
• Scientific Style and Format:: The CSE manuals for Authors, Editors, and Publishers: 7th Edition (Turabian)
A great online source for citing in all styles is the OWL at Purdue. Check out their pages for MLA, APA and Chicago. There are other useful resources on this site for general writing assistance.
Click here for the Connections (LA101) Research Guide.
Research Guides are available on the many subjects and more guides will be added as developed.