This is the "Choose a Topic" page of the "Research Process and Strategies" guide.
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Research Process and Strategies  

Last Updated: Nov 30, 2010 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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Your topic has to embrace the requirements of the assignment as well as what you are genuinely interested in. These resources should help you find a topic that is academic and relevant, and that inspires you.  Also, please don't hesitate to talk with your teacher and your librarian to help you find the best topic for you. 


Technology Tips

Mindmapping is a good tool for brainstorming.  Mind42 is free online mindmapping software.  An added benefit to this tool is that you can share your mindmap with someone else and brainstorm together.  Here's a tutorial on using mindmapping to start your research paper:



Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, but an encyclopedia that anyone can edit.  While the quality is going up, it doesn't work on the traditional publication model.  It does not depend on academic experts or editors. If you use a Wikipedia article, use your critical thinking skills to evaluate it:  does the author have authority? is it well-written? does the information compare similarly to other information you read? is there a well-formed reference list?  does the reference list have a variety of sources?  Sometimes Wikipedia is useful to get ideas and point you to other resources, but you probably don't want to cite it in your reference list or paper


Searches more than one billion documents, including web pages, books, encyclopedias, journals, and newspapers

Resources for choosing a topic

In addition to consulting with your teachers, your class readings/notes, and textbooks, visit some of the links below for more ideas.

  • Google News  
    Google collects up-to-the-minute news links from around the Web and categorizes them. You can look at articles about the World, U.S., Business, Sci-Tech, Entertainment, Sports, Health and more. Browse to find ideas.
  • NPR Research News
    Research news for lay people.
  • CQ Researcher
    CQ Researcher does in-depth explorations of current topics. Look for good articles, lists of stakeholders and their web sites, and bibliographies of further reading.
  • SIRS Issues Researcher
    SIRS collects articles from popular magazines and newspapers on a range of current topics. It also does good overviews and pro/con sections.
  • Gale Virtual Reference Library
    GVRL is a collection of full text encyclopedias from multiple subject areas. Some people like to browse the contents of encyclopedias for topic ideas.
  • Opposing Viewpoints in Context
    This contains articles on current, controversial topics. The front page lists popular topics.
  • The Internet Public Library
    The IPL has a great collection of links to free resources, and you can browse the subjects for topic ideas.
  • Pop Culture Universe
  • Times Topics
    Articles on a range of topics from the New York Times dating back to 1981
  • U.S. History in Context
    For background in U.S. history topics

Current Periodicals

Browse current issues of magazines on the display shelves for ideas as well.

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This LibGuide is adapted from Claire Murata's Research Guide (Shoreline Comminity College).



Encyclopedias give you the background, including major events, ideas, problems, and facts. They are found in both the online and print reference collections of the library.  Read encyclopedia articles before you read scholarly journal articles, and you will have a better chance of understanding the specialized vocabulary that experts use with each other.  Take a look at Credo Reference where you can draw information from over 500 reference books. Note the Concept Map tab to expand your idea.


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