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Database Search Skills: Decide on a Topic

Decide on a topic

Surprisingly enough, picking a research topic can be one of the hardest parts of the whole research process! And yet, having a topic is essential to searching the library databases.The library databases are set up to search for materials using a topic as the basis of the search. You can add limiters to your searches, like peer review or full text, but you still have to have a topic to enter in the search box(es).

Here are some things to keep in mind as you determine your topic.

Start with the end product in mind.

  • Discussion Posts don't give you a lot of time for research and often have specific requirements. Read the instructions carefully and then pick a topic that can be researched in a few hours.
  • Research Papers & Final Projects allow you more time to research and gather materials. Again, make sure to read the instructions carefully and pick a topic that will meet the requirements.
  • Dissertations or Capstones require very in-depth research. Your topic needs to be unique, yet build on prior research.

Think about deadlines.

  • If you don't have a lot of time to do your research, you may want to pick a broad, simple topic that you can find research on quickly.
  • These are some characteristics of an easily researchable topic.

Many articles have been published on the topic.

Articles are currently being published on the topic.

  • If you have a lot of time to research a topic, you can pick a more narrow or focused topic that may take a bit more digging to find what you need. These are some characteristics of a more difficult research topic.

The topic focuses on a very specific population/location/demographic.

The topic isn’t commonly accepted or established.

Brainstorm ideas.

  • Topic ideas can come from a variety of sources.
    • Textbooks
    • Course readings
    • Current events
    • News
    • Work
    • Real-life experiences

Pick something of interest.

Even if you're just doing a discussion post on the topic, you'll find the whole process much more enjoyable if it's something that interests you.

If you'd like to learn more about picking a good research topic, please see our guide: