Choosing a Topic

Choosing what to write about for a term paper can be a difficult task. Use this page to get advice on how to choose a topic wisely, for links to topic ideas, and to show you how to narrow or broaden your topic.

Some important points to consider when choosing a topic are:

  • Do I know anything about it already?
  • Will I be able to understand the information about this topic?
  • Does this topic interest me?
  • Is there enough published information about this topic?
  • Will I be able to access information about this topic at my library?
  • If information is not available locally, will I have the time and resources to go and find it?

Sometimes, you do not have a choice about what topic to write on. The most important consideration for any student is whether you can get enough information about the topic. You should at least determine whether or not the library has books or journal articles on your topic as the first step in your research. If you wait until the last minute to start your research, it may be too late to change topics if you discover it is difficult to find the information

How to Narrow or Broaden Your Topic

If your topic is too broad, you will find too much information and will have difficulty writing about it because there will be too much to include. You will need to narrow your focus. If your topic is too narrow, too specific, too specialized or too new, you will have difficulty finding enough information about it and will need to broaden your focus.

General topic you need to Narrow:
  • What do you already know about it?
  • What don't you know about it?
  • What aspects of it do you find interesting? (historical, sociological, political?)
  • What time period do you want to cover?
  • What geographic region do you want to focus on?
  • What kind of information do you need?(books, statistics, articles?)

General topic you need to Broaden:

  • Are there similar concerns associated with related topics? For example, could you examine other experimental ways of preserving food?
  • Could you think in terms of what the broader issue is, for example, what are the current concerns with food safety?
  • Can you pick out the key players in this issue and focus on them? For example, the FDA, consumers, scientists?.
  • Are there other issues associated with this topic, for example, food labeling?
  • Is there a law or a regulation or an event that brought about or influenced this issue? Can you trace its development?
Thomas D. Greenley

Greenley Library

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