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Find Research Topics
Use these resources to get topic ideas or for background information.
Need help coming up with a topic?
Start with a subject you’re interested in
The best research topics often start in the form of a question about something you are curious to learn more about. Pick something you find interesting. Maybe I’m interested in video games. Notice that this isn't a pre-formed opinion like, “I want to show that video games do not make people more violent.” Starting with a pre-formed opinion often leads to dead-ends when it comes to doing the research and finding the sources to support your argument.
Get enough background info to develop a research question
Video games, in and of itself, is not a good research topic—it’s way too broad. You don't want to try to research everything there is to know or discuss about video games. The next step is to learn enough background information on a topic to understand the jargon used in the field and to understand the current arguments or discussions in order to come up with a good research question. To find that kind of information, use one of these resources:
A quick search for video games in CQ Researcher gets me this very useful report: http://library.cqpress.com/
(You may need to log into CQ Researcher above to authenticate first.)
Notice the report contains lots of background information, tons of citations in the bibliography for other resources I could look up and maybe use in my paper, and even some suggested questions (as section headings) that might make very good research topics, including:
- Are video games addictive?
- Do video games significantly enhance literacy?
- Do video games make kids more violent?
Likewise, if I try a search for video games in Sage Reference Online, I will get a list of results for articles about video games that appear in academic, subject-specific encyclopedias including:
- Encyclopedia of Human Development
- Encyclopedia of the Social and Cultural Foundations of Education
- Encyclopedia of Children, Adolescents, and the Media
Each of those articles on video games will have slightly different perspectives and present different kinds of research questions because each is looking at video games from a different subject area. All have really great sections for further reading that can direct me to books and articles that I could use in my paper.
After reading through the background information, the next step is to formulate a specific research question. Your research question might change as you go and that's OK. Start with something specific though. A good research question for me to start with might be, "Does playing video games make teenage boys more violent?" Once you have a specific question in mind, you can pick out your most important search terms and start searching the databases for news articles and scholarly articles that address that question.
Here's a handout to guide you through the process of coming up with a good research question:
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