Skip to Main Content


Dana Atwood

Choosing a topic

Use this checklist as you consider topics:

___  Did you review the expectations for the paper/project?  Does your topic meet the expectations?

___  Is your topic interesting to you?

___  Will you be able to find enough quality sources on this topic?  (see video below)

___ If the paper/project requires you to write at length--let's say 5 pages--ask yourself if you can write 5 pages of quality content on your topic?

As you consider these questions, do some preliminary reading about your topic.  Even brief background reading (CQ Researcher/Wikipedia) will help you understand some of the basic concepts, terms and scope of your topic.

Picking Your Topic IS Research!

Source: NCSU Libraries

Brainstorming topics / background research

These sources will give you an overview of a topic and some ideas of ways that you can pursue the topic in more detail.

Other resources for background information

Finding keywords

A keyword is a word that you commonly use to describe your subject.   When you search a catalog or database, your search results are a list of books or articles that match the keywords you used.  Finding the right words is the "key" to successful research!

Ways to brainstorm keywords:

  • Ask yourself questions about your topic and write down words that you use. 
  • Do some background reading on your topic--from encyclopedias, news articles, text books, etc. Add words you find to your list.
  • Consult a thesaurus or dictionary for synonyms for your terms, such as Bartleby Reference.
  • As you begin searching, look at the "subject terms" or other terminology in the records you find. Use these terms in new searches.