Choosing a Research Topic

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Deciding on a Topic and Search Terms

Deciding on a topic is possibly the most difficult part of doing research. If you're not sure of how to start, ask a Reference Librarian, or ...

  1. Think about a topic that interests you and that will hold your attention over the course of researching and writing the paper. You can get ideas for a topic from the sources listed in the Journal Articles section.
  2. Do some quick background reading either in textbooks or resources like the specialized subject encyclopedias in the library. Using these tools will give you ideas for topics and help you know what terms are used by the professionals who write in that field.
  3. Try to narrow your topic to something manageable. You may need to rework your ideas on the topic several times over the course of your research. Talk with you professor if you're running into problems.
  4. Once you have an idea, write it out as a short sentence or question and look at the different parts. Develop a list of the keywords and synonyms.

    "How does stress affect memory?"
This topic has keywords that fall into two different concepts:
  • Memory, Recall, Forgetfulness, Recollection
  • Stress, Anxiety, Pressure
  1. The next step is to choose databases for the books and journals you'll need. (See How do I find an Article for detailed information on searching for journal articles)