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Starting Your Research: Choosing a Topic

Choosing a Topic

Researching information for an assignment is not a one-shot deal. You will likely have to do several searches as you narrow down your topic, look for background information, and find the scholarly sources you need to complete the assignment. The Research Process is not a straight path that everyone follows in exactly the same way. This can be frustrating and time consuming, but the resources below will help you along in the process.

Picking a Topic

Your instructor and the specifics of the assignment should help you with picking a topic. But what if you need some inspiration? It's always a good idea to pick something you are interested in otherwise it will be difficult to stay motivated about researching something you don't really care about.

Think about current events and controversial topics.  Look at what is happening in the world right now. Keep up with the news and see if anything strikes your interest. Whether it's national politics, environmental issues or cultural events, looking at news events from the last few weeks can help you choose a topic.


  • Look at a variety of news sources, from different perspectives. You do not want to be skewed too much one way or another before you get to researching the topic. 
  • If something is too recent, scholarly research might not exist about that specific topic yet. Think about where news events fit in more general subjects.
    • For example: You are interested in researching the Black Lives Matter movement in Chicago. Nothing might be published about that specifically in scholarly journals but you can use BLM as a case study of contemporary Civil Rights movements; Or you can research studies on police brutality in the last twenty years, in general.

News Sources

Reuters CNN
Fox News  Wall Street Journal

Library Databases

You can also pick a topic from Opposing Viewpoints or CQ Researcher:

Opposing Viewpoints covers hottest social issues, such as offshore drilling, climate change, health care, and immigration. Has full text, editor selected articles. Helps students research, analyze and organize a broad variety of information for conducting research, completing writing assignments, preparing for debates, creating presentations and more.

CQ Researcher provides award winning in-depth coverage of the most important issues of the day. The reports are written by experienced journalists, footnoted and professionally fact-checked.