How do you decide what to write about? Here are some ideas for choosing your topic. 

  • Make sure your topic meets the assignment requirements. If you are unsure, ask your professor for feedback.
  • Choose a topic that is interesting to you. 
  • Choose a topic that others have written about in order to find enough resources.
  • Consider the scope of your topic. Is it too broad or too narrow?

Here is an example of keywords that are too broad.

      an example of keywords that are too broad

Here is an example of keywords that are too narrow.
 

an example of keywords that are too narrow

Try these strategies for an effective research question:

  • Background research will help you learn more about your topic, find keywords, and refine your research question. 
     
  • Brainstorm related concepts and keywords. For example, if your topic is "steroids in sports,"  write down synonymous words or related topics: performance-enhancing drugs, performance-enhancing substances, anabolic steroids, drug-use in sports, etc... Do a quick search on Wikipedia or another online site to see what other terms are associated with a topic. 
     
  • Limit your scope to manage your research. If you use a historical angle, then focus on a particular time period; for a geographical angle, focus on a particular part of the world; or a sociological angle, focus on a particular group of people.
     
  • Start exploratory, in-depth research. As you start in-depth research, look for scholarly articles and books, then refine your topic based on what you find. Research is a dynamic process!

This topic development flowchart follows the path of your topic ideas to background research to the formulation of your topic question then to in-depth research and your research thesis or the answers to your research question:

topic development flowchart

Here's a video that might help, too. 

Resources that help with topic development:

  • Talk to your instructor. 
  • Read through your course readings and class notes for ideas.
  • Wikipedia and Google searches are great for brainstorming key words and narrowing your topic, but aren't usually good sources for information 
  • Books are an excellent resource for background information (articles are typically much more narrowly focused).
  • Reference books and databases such as Gale Virtual Reference Library and Oxford Reference Online.
  • The Opposing Viewpoints and CQ Researcher databases can also be good for background information on controversial topics. 
  • Research Guides, created by Fresno State librarians, identify subject encyclopedias, books, databases, and other scholarly materials.
  • Contact a librarian! Librarians are available via email, 24/7 chat, phone, and in-person at the Research Help Desk.