2.2 Choosing and Developing a Topic

Once you have narrowed down your choices, you should gather some background information to help you decide on the topic and the focus of your topic.

I. Choosing a topic

When choosing a topic, you should:

  • choose a topic that interests you
  • think of your target audience; your topic should be interesting to readers
  • evaluate whether the topic is too recent, too emotional, too broad, too narrow, too complex, etc.
  • ask yourself what kind of information and how much information you need, and is there adequate information available?

Once you have chosen a topic, you will determine whether you need to refine, broaden, or narrow down your topic. It is important to have a focused topic. You will need to gather some background information to help you develop a well-defined topic.

II. Gathering Background Information

You can gather background information by using appropriate resources:

  • Definitions → subject encyclopedias, Gale Virtual Reference (database), books
  • Pro/Con analyses → SIRS Knowledge Source, CQ Researcher Online, FACTS on File (databases); Opposing Viewpoints Series (book)
  • Current events → newspapers, news magazines, news web sites, NewsBank (database)

At this stage, you can skim through abstracts of articles, introductions and table of contents of books, encyclopedia entries, etc. This will deepen your understanding of the topic. You will also be more familiar with the terminology and issues involved. With some background information, you can develop your topic into a focused one.

III. Developing a Topic

To develop a focused topic, try these:

  • Pick out major concepts from the source you browse, then choose a specific aspect of the subject. You can further narrow it down by focusing on a specific group, geographic location, or time period.
  • Choose your stand/view point of an issue
  • Discuss your ideas with your instructor or a librarian.
  • Test your topic by searching the book catalog or research databases to see how much information is available.

Once you have a well-defined topic, you are ready to create a thesis statement.

Next Chapter: 3. Creating a Thesis Statement & Outline