Choosing a Topic

Choosing a topic is often the most difficult part of the research process. Learn how to find and narrow research topics suitable for your assignment.

1. Check your syllabus.

Read your syllabus and assignment description. This will help you choose a topic that meets your instructor’s expectations for the assignment. Your instructor may include information such as the type and number of sources that you need to use for the assignment.

2. Get inspired.

  • Personal or Professional Problems
    Consider a problem or issue you want to learn more about. It’s best to choose something you are interested in, either professionally or personally, to ensure you stay engaged with your research. Consider professional interests or problems that are relevant to your course’s topic area.
  • Current Events
    If you need a current event related to your field, search Google News 
  • Professional Associations
    Browse professional organization websites for potential topics.

3. Avoid broad and overly narrow topics.

  • Broad Topics
    Make sure your topic isn’t too broad or narrow for your assignment requirements. If you choose too large a topic, you could end up writing a book! For example, don’t choose something like “Psychology” or “Management.” Instead, try to find a specific brand of psychology or type of therapy or a specific management strategy.
  • Narrow Topics
    Your topic is too narrow if you don’t find enough resources or if you can cover all aspects of the topic in fewer pages than your assignment specifies. For example, the following topic is too narrow: Academic stress among sophomore male soccer players at Saint Mary’s University in 2015.

4. Write it down.

Jot down what you already know about your topic as well as what you want to find out. Also, consider why your research topic is important and worth investigating. If you are unable to provide a rationale for your research topic, it is unlikely that you will stay engaged in your research and produce a quality product. Your justification should explain why the issue needs to be addressed, or why finding a solution is important or necessary.

5. Gather background information.

Gathering background information can help you decide what direction you may want to take your research. It will also help you determine if there is enough information about your topic.


Encyclopedias are excellent sources for gather background information on a topic.


You can do this by conducting a basic search in SuperSearch. Scroll through the SuperSearch results, and read the titles and subjects for each resource.

  1. Enter your topic into SuperSearch and select search.
  2. Browse the titles and subjects for each resource.
  3. Ask yourself: Do you see any research trends? Any related ideas? Use your results to determine how you might narrow your topic. Try to find out: what population is affected by the problem or issue? What are potential solutions or intervention strategies?

If your search is returning very few or no results, your topic may be too specific or too new. Try choosing a more general topic to start. You should also double-check your spelling. Look for research trends, related ideas, populations affected, and potential solutions or intervention strategies.

Watch and Learn More

Identify Topics

Walk through the process for choosing a topic in detail.

Watch Video

Draft Questions

If you need to 15 or more sources, use a research question to stay focused.

Watch Video

Evaluate Questions

Learn how to determine if your research question will work.

Watch Video