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Hamersly Library

WR 122 - Tillinghast-Voit: Find & Refine Your Topic

Getting Started: Finding a Topic

STEP ONE: You need a topic! Here are some ideas:

  • Think of a topic or hobby that interests you. Can you turn it into a research paper?
    • Example: You love sports. Try one of these topics: benefits of physical fitness; how sports promotes teamwork; pay for college athletes; concussions in sports.
    • Ask the librarian if you want to brainstorm how to turn your interests into a researchable topic.
  • Have you seen an issue in the news or on social media that interests you?
  • Scan news sources (in print or online) for ideas (Google News, Yahoo News, specific newspapers, etc.)
  • Browse CQ Researcher to find out about hot topics

Partner Up!

STEP TWO: Test out your topic with a real, live person.

OK, you've found a topic. It’s okay if it’s a bit vague or broad right now.

Now you need to find a partner to help you think through your topic. You should play “devil’s advocate” for each other. No matter how you actually feel about the issue, you should take the opposite side of your partner’s topic. Ask each other questions like:

  1. Why should people care about this issue? What’s at stake? What are you hoping to prove?
  2. Why have you taken the position you have on this issue? What specifically makes you think your perspective is the right one?
  3. What about other opinions? Why aren’t they correct? Be specific.
  4. What evidence do you have to support your opinion? What evidence are you planning to find to support your opinion?
  5. Give each other feedback on what would convince you to come to their side on the issue -- what evidence would you find convincing?
  6. Feel free to ask other questions that help your partner think through their topic.

Also help each other brainstorm key words and concepts related to your topic and write these down. They will become your search terms when you look for resources on your topic.

CQ Researcher

CQ Researcher database


Tracy Scharn's picture
Tracy Scharn
HL 117E