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Research Process: A Step-By-Step Guide: 1a. Select a Topic

This guide walks you through the steps of the research process.

Your Research Assignment - Define the Task

Before selecting a topic or starting your research, make sure you understand your assignment. Consider:

  • Have you been assigned a topic or can you pick your own?
  • How many pages/words do you need to write? How long is your presentation?
  • Do you need to include specific types of sources (e.g. scholarly journal, book, etc.)?
  • When is the assignment due? How much time do you have to research?
  • Is currency of information important?

When in doubt, consult with your teacher.


Choose a topic that interests you
and will hold your attention. If you do, the research will be more enjoyable!

Topic Ideas

 Can’t think of a topic to research?

  • Scan your textbook.
  • Peruse current magazines and newspapers.
  • Browse encyclopedias.
  • Browse websites.
  • Browse topics in databases listed on this page.
  • Discuss topics with your instructor, a librarian or a classmate.

Browse Topics in Library Databases

Browse issues and topics for ideas in these databases that are specific to a variety of subjects:

The Idea Generator

Old Dominion University has developed a list of key words and phrases for a range of topics by subject for you to explore and expand upon.  Take a look!