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Choosing a Topic

Learn how to select and refine a topic, translate your topic into searchable keywords, and get started with your research.

Refining your Topic

Color drawing of Goldilocks asleep with the three bears standing around her.

Now that you have a topic that interests you, let's make sure the topic is a workable one. Topics that work are those that have enough information written about them for you to write your paper, but are not so large that you cannot possibly discuss the entire issue in the number of pages you have been assigned. 

Think of yourself as Goldilocks the researcher . . . You want topics that are just the right size, not those that are too large or too small.

The slideshow below teaches you some tricks you can use to "fix" a topic that is too narrow or too broad and shows you how to translate your topic into keywords you can use in your searches.

Concept mapping, which is discussed on the right, can also help you to fix the size of your topic and generate keywords.

Image credit: Goldilocks Asleep, In Pastel, used under a Creative Commons Attribution License:

Using Concept Mapping to Refine Topics & Generate Keywords

Concept maps can be drawn on paper, whiteboards, or made on a computer. (Click here for a cool, free site you can use to create a concept map online.)

These maps help you visualize all the different angles and nuances that make up a larger topic like student success in college. Since you want a paper topic that is narrow enough to be useful, without being so tiny that you get no results, these maps can help you hone in on a specific topic.

Interested to see how all this works? Check out this great video from Douglas College Library on how concept mapping can help you refine your topic and start building keyword searches: