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Research Basics: Choosing a Research Topic

Do you understand the assignment requirements?

Read the assignment requirements carefully. See the previous page Understanding the Assignment for tips. If you are unsure what topic would be relevant, talk to your professor

Do you find the topic interesting?

Choose a topic you find interesting. Ask yourself:

  • Are you an expert in an area that might be turning into an interesting term paper topic?
  • Is there something you feel strongly about?
  • Is there something you’d like to know more about?
  • Is there a current international, national, local or campus issue you find interesting and important?

Ask your friends or family members for suggestions and ideas.

How have others written about the topic?

Consider how others have written about your topic. Resources they have used will likely be helpful.

What is the scope of the topic?

Consider the scope of your topic. How broad or narrow is it?

If your topic is too broad it may be difficult to find focused and relevant information. The topic also should be focused enough that it is meaningful to your audience. It may be hard to find information on a topic that is too narrow.If your topic is highly focused, be more flexible in your search strategy.


Too Broad Better
Food safety Impact of government regulation on food safety in the United States
Too Narrow Better
History of organic labeling of pork products in the city of Portland, OR Labeling of organic food in the United States

Also think about what topic will be meaningful to your audience. What relevance will the topic have to them?


Source: Portland State University Library


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