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Building a Library Research Strategy: Developing Topics

This guide will help students develop a research strategy for finding information for papers or projects.

What is this page for?

This page provides ideas for finding and developing topics 

Before You Choose


  1. What are the guidelines for the assignment?
  2. What types of sources do you need? How many?
  3. How long (or in-depth) is the paper supposed to be? 
  4. Who is your audience (academic or non-academic)?

Tutorial Videos About Topics

1 minute tutorials from Credo Database:

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Where do I look?


Your instructor may give you specific instructions, prompts, readings, links, or lists as to what your topic will be about.

But If you need help with ideas, here are some places to look.

  1. SVC databases: Try looking at some issue-based databases like:
  2. Websites: Browse through the following websites for ideas:

Suggestion for Refining Topics

undefinedTry the "Five W's" to help refine your topic:  

The questions below will help you to investigate and narrow down some ideas about your topic. Circle or highlight names, terms, and ideas that interest you the most. You might turn this into a list of search terms or "keywords."  

  • WHO - Who is affected by your topic?  Don't just think of the focus of your topic but who are the other stakeholders that might be impacted?
  • WHAT - What are the causes and effects of your topic?  What impacts might there be?
  • WHEN - Is there a specific time-period that you might focus on? 
  • WHERE - Is there a certain geographic location to focus on?  
  • WHY - Why is this topic important?  Why should your audience care?

(image from the Noun Project "five" by Adam Zubin, MV)

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