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Research (General): Where do I start?: Choosing a Topic

Tools you can use for researching any topic, plus tutorials on research, strategies for evaluating research sources, and how to get research help 24/7

10,000 Ideas

Thumb through the book 10,000 Ideas for Term Papers, Projects, Reports and Speeches. (Ask for this at the library reference desk)

Getting started

Here are some suggestions to get you thinking about how to select and refine your research topic:

Select a topic that interests you

Review the assignment to make sure you understand all the requirements

  • Do you need to write a brief summary or a lengthy research paper? 
  • Does the instructor require: periodical articles, books, websites?
  • Do you need to research: statistics, primary sources, evidence based practice, peer-reviewed articles?

Think about the course readings:

  • What do you already know about the topic?
  • What don't know (and would like to learn)?
  • What questions do you have about the topic?

Strategies for choosing a topic

Browse the library collection using the appropriate Dewey Decimal number for your topic (find the number by looking in the library catalog or asking a librarian).


Use a general encyclopedia (e.g. Encyclopedia Americana) or a subject encyclopedia (e.g. Encyclopedia of Psychology, Child Development, Alternative Medicine, etc.) to view different aspects of a broad topic.


Go the SCC Library’s homepage page and browse through the topics listed under current events databases like:

  •  CQ Researcher
  •  Opposing Viewpoints in Context
  •  eLibrary (Use the Topics tab to explore narrower subtopics.)

More questions to help you refine your topic

What aspects of your topic interest you (historical, psychological, moral, economic, sociological, political, technical, etc.)? [e.g. economic aspects of global warming]

What time period do you want to cover?  [e.g. immigration to the U.S. from 1880 to 1921]

On which geographic region or country do you want to focus?  [e.g. Islamic fundamentalism in Egypt]

On what person or group do you want to focus (gender, age, ethnicity)?  [e.g. alcoholism among teenagers]