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InfoBits: Develop Your Topic

What You'll Learn

InfoBits - Build your research skills

  • The importance of focusing your topic
  • How to develop a research question
  • The value of effective search terms
  • The benefits of keeping track of your resources

Important Terms

Save Time

noteKeep track of your resources right from the start. If you don't, it may be challenging to refer back for more information or for citing and creating your bibliography.

For each resource, record the:

  • Article title
  • Publication or book title
  • Database or website name
  • Date, page numbers, etc. 

Develop Your Topic

Develop Your Topic - Techniques to develop a focused topic.

At this step, you will begin to explore resources to see what information is available. Use the Library's databases, Library catalog, and the web as a starting point.

As you explore, you will:

  • Determine if the topic is too broad or narrow
  • Recognize concepts and additional ideas related to your topic
  • Discover subject-specific words, important people, places, pertinent organizations, plus historical and current information
  • Develop a pool of search terms

For a complete list of article and ebook databases: Go to A-Z List

Topics - Too Much Information or Not Enough?

Too much information

If your topic is broad, you will drown in too much information. You will waste valuable time pursuing something that is too immense to be covered within the limitations of your assignment.

Not enough information

If your topic is too narrow, it will be difficult to find enough information. With so few resources, there won't be much substance to work with and you'll be tempted to make things up. Especially challenging are local topics, because there are limited resources that cover them. Consider if the local topic is also a regional or national issue. Researching at a broader level will increase the chances of finding more resources.

Brainstorm Your Topic

In your exploration, you probably found related concepts and ideas. Use them to create a concept map of ideas surrounding your topic. Try to answer some of the common reporter interview questions: who, what, when, where, why, and how. This process will help you choose a direction for your research.

Develop a Research Question

Developing an answerable question will bring a focus to your topic and prompt you to look for specific information and resources. Consequently, it will save you time.

To begin, review your concept map and choose an issue that has the potential to be explored in greater detail. Think of underlying issues rather than a single fact. A fact such as, "illegal immigrants are coming into the United States" does not provide an opportunity for investigation and analysis.

Consider issues related to this fact such as the:

  • Impact of job opportunities for United States citizens
  • Strain on the healthcare system
  • Financial benefits to employers who fill low wage jobs
  • Challenges to the education system
  • Talents and skills immigrants bring to the United States

By using one of the above issues, you can create a research question. For example:

"How does illegal immigration impact job opportunities for United States citizens?"

Search Terms

Notice how the above research question contains key terms related to an issue. When searching, some keywords will be better than others for finding good results.

The next step is to create a pool of keywords and phrases to use as you research. Use the Researching More Effectively worksheet to help you develop a list of keywords.

  • Use suggested keywords when searching library databases and the web
  • Try different combinations of your keywords and phrases
  • Use alternate spellings, ex. theater or theatre
  • For suggestions of synonyms and opposite words, use

Build Your Skills

Complete the "Develop Your Topic" section to help you direct your research for your paper.

Investigate Your Topic

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