Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Library Orientation

This guide provides information about how to access the CLTCC Library/LRC resources.

Selecting a Research Topic

Developing a good research topic is an important skill. An instructor may assign you a specific top, but often instructors require you to select your own topic of interest. When deciding on a topic, there are a few things that you will need to do:

  • brainstorm ideas
  • choose a topic that will enable you to read and understand the literature
  • make sure that the topic is manageable and that material is available
  • make a list of keywords
  • be flexible - you may have to change your topic several times
  • research and read more about your topic
  • formulate a thesis statement


Step 1: Brainstorm for Ideas

Choose a topic that interests you. The following questions will help you generate topic ideas:

  • Did you read or see a news story that captured your interest or made you angry or anxious? Or happy?
  • Is there an aspect of your class that  you're interesting in and would like to learn more about?
  • Do you have a personal problem that you'd like to solve?
  • Do you have a strong opinion about a current political issue or controversy?

Be aware of overused ideas when deciding on a topic. It's best to avoid topics like abortion, gun control, teen pregnancy, or suicide, unless you have a unique approach to the subject. If you're stuck, ask your instructor, friends, or family for ideas. The librarian can also assist you with brainstorming ideas.

Step 2: Read General Background Information

  • Read a general encyclopedia article on the top two or three topics you are considering. Reading a broad summary enables you to get an overview of the topic and see how your idea relates to broader, narrower, and related issues. Encyclopedias are also a great source for finding words commonly used to describe the topic. These keywords may be very helpful as you continue your research. 
  • Scan newspapers and journal articles on your topic. The librarian can show you how to browse articles on your topic of interest.

Step 3: Focus on Your Topic

Keep it manageable

If your topic is too broad or too narrow, it will be very difficult to research. Some ways to limit your topic are (we'll use "the environment" as our topic):

  • by geographical area

Example: What environmental issues are most important in the Southern United States?

  • by culture

Example: How does the environment fit into the Coushatta world view?

  • by time frame

Example: What are the most prominent environmental issues of the last 10 years?

  • by discipline

Example: How does environmental awareness impact business practices?

  • by population group

Example: What are the effects of air pollution on senior citizens? 

Step 4: Make a List of Useful Keywords

Keep track of the words used to describe your topic.

  • Look for these words when reading encyclopedia articles.
  • Make note of the hyperlinked words or words that are in bold in online articles.
  • Find synonyms, think of key concepts, or ideas that were discussed in your class.

Step 5: Be Flexible

Modifying your topic during the research process is common. You may find too much information and need to narrow your focus, or too little information and need to broaden your focus. This is a normal part of the research process. 

Other things to keep in mind:

  • the assigned length of your research paper, project, or bibliography
  • the depth of coverage you need 
  • the due date

Your instructor will provide more specific requirements, but the information above will  help you to stay focused and on task.

Step 6: Define Your Topic as a Focused Research Question

Your research will often begin with a keyword. Develop a more focused interest in that word, then create questions around that word.

Step 7: Research and Read More About Your Topic

Use the keywords you have gathered to conduct research in the OPAC and databases. 

Before settling on your topic, you will need to do some research to determine if there's enough information to answer your research question. 

Step 8: Formulate a Thesis Statement

Write your topic as a thesis statement. Your thesis statement may be the answer to your research question and/or a way to clearly state the purpose of your research. 

Remember to follow the specific directions provided by your instructor for how to write your research paper. The information provided here is only to be used as guidelines.