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MXC Research 101

How to Choose a Research Topic

Tips for Choosing a Research TopicVenn diagram showing an outer circle labeled "All possible topics" with a circle labeled "assigned topic" inside, "topic narrowed by initial exploration" inside that circle, with "Topic narrowed to research question" inside that circle.

  • Write what you know! Choose a topic you have some familiarity with or are curious about
  • Browse a magazine or one of the databases below and see what catches your attention
Narrow or broaden your topic as needed:
  • Do a little background reading on your topic and think about a specific question you can ask
    • Think about "W" questions: Who, what, when, where?
  • Look at the Thinking Tool to refine your topic and brainstorm some keywords

Image from Choosing & Using Sources: A Guide to Academic Research
CC-BY Teaching & Learning, Ohio State University Libraries

Databases for Browsing Topics

Example Research Questions

When formulating a research question, you want to be able to research a question that is not easily answerable in a few sentences with little discussion. Take into consideration how much you will be expected to write, and broaden or narrow your question from there. A good research question should generate follow-up  questions as well. Look at the examples below:

Should college athletes be compensated?

Follow-up questions: Which college athletes? Where? Who should compensate them? In what ways?

What factors contribute to childhood asthma?

Follow-up questions: Where are children more likely to have asthma? Does family socio-economic status contribute? How?

How do public libraries in the United States support democracy?

Follow-up questions: What do libraries do to support democracy? Who uses the resources of public libraries?

Why are Apple’s marketing efforts so successful?

Follow-up questions: What kind of growth have they experienced? What products do they focus on? Who is leading their marketing efforts?

How might artificial intelligence be used responsibly?

Follow-up questions: What kind of artificial intelligence? How is it used? What would be irresponsible use or development? What pitfalls are there to avoid?