English 001 A (Lundberg): Choosing a Topic

Library Orientation

So many topics...

Whenever you are given the freedom to do so, select a topic that genuinely interests you and/or is relevant to your life.

Begin by asking yourself:

What draws your attention?

What problems affect you or someone close to you?

What do you think the biggest problem in society is today?


Consider some of our research databases for good ideas. For example:

Facts on File: Issues & Controversies (list of topics)

CQ Researcher Online

Gale Virtual Reference


Other key considerations:

Will it sustain my interest?

Does it fit the parameters of my assignment?

Is credible information on this topic readily available?

Focusing your topic...

Here are some methods by which you can begin to focus:

Do some background research. Take a few minutes to run your topic through the library catalog and the library databases. Note how others are exploring your topic. What "grabs" you? What doesn't? What keywords/buzz words keep coming up? 

 Go back to “why” you chose your topic. What made you choose your topic in the first place? Sometimes articulating the “why” out loud will directly reveal the direction you want to go.

Talk to others about your topic. Check in not only with your professors and librarians, but talk to your friends, family and classmates about your topic. Having your topic reflected by someone else can often spark great ideas, and any chance to articulate your topic “out loud” is beneficial.

Background research matters!

Background research helps you identify the “who, what, when, why, where” information on your topic. Reference books and article databases offer useful topic overviews and usually include bibliographies leading you to more specific sources on your topic. Background research sources can begin to answer some of your research questions, and give you ideas of new questions to ask.

Conduct background research because:

  • It is a great source of core knowledge on your topic
  • It can generate ideas on different ways to focus your topic
  • It can answer research questions you've already posed
  • It may help you clarify and/or expand research questions.
  • It often points you towards other sources of information on your topic (bibliographies)