Choosing a topic
This is the first step in the research you will do for your paper or project.
You will need to find a topic that has plenty of information written about it so that you may select what best fits your interests.
Understand the assignment
It is important that you understand the assignment before starting your research. Look closely at the instructions you have been given and consider these questions:
Select a topic that interests you
If you have some flexibility in choosing your topic, choose one that you find interesting and that you want to know more about. Being interested in the topic will help keep you going. If you need ideas try:
Broad topic: Pets
Narrow topic: Pet therapy
Narrower topic: Pet therapy and the chronically ill
|A research question is a clear, focused question that helps guide your research.|
The four "must haves" of a good research question:
Here are a few steps to designing a research question:
Example of a not so good (too general) research question:
Is pet therapy beneficial?
Example of a solid, clearly written, open-ended research question:
How can companion animals improve health?
Jot down the main terms that relate to your research question. Include terms that are broader or narrower than your topic. These terms are called key terms (or keywords), and they are the words you will use when you do your research. It is helpful to keep track of these in your notes and add terms that work well to your list as you come upon them in your research.
Example research question: How can companion animals improve health?
Key terms: pets, pet therapy, companion animals, therapeutic use, health, health benefits, chronic illness
For complicated or more involved research, it may be helpful to organize and keep track of your terms in a chart:
Try searching the library catalog, a general database, and an encyclopedia. You might need to try different keywords to broaden or narrow your topic. This preliminary work will help you see if all is going well or if you need to fine tune your search.