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UMW Libraries
Simpson Library | Special Collections

Research Skills for First-Year Seminars (FSEMs): Finding a Research Topic

Finding a Research Topic

When looking for a topic, the first step is to look for background information, like short summaries or overviews of topics.

A good place to start is with reference books. Things like encyclopedias, dictionaries, and almanacs give you the basic facts about a topic, which tells you what to type in search boxes to find more sources. Reference books let you…

  • gain a broad and general understanding of the topic.
  • learn important names, key facts, issues and debates, and answers to questions.
  • identify relevant search terms and strategies.
  • identify sources for further reading

Finding a topic sounds easy, but finding a good topic may take some effort. Look for topic ideas in textbooks, in your class notes, in encyclopedias, and on the Internet. After you find a possible topic, you may need to adjust as you learn more about that topic. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

This video is from the University of Houston Libraries.

Where to Get Ideas for Topics