Before you can write any paper, you have to pick a topic. This can take many paths. Maybe the topic is assigned to you, or you can pick whatever topic you want. Either way, you can choose the topic that is interesting to you.
The reason you want to pick a topic that is interesting to you is so that researching becomes an investigative journey rather than a dredge through a swamp of information. But this doesn't make it easy. Sometimes just picking a topic can be the hardest part of your research, especially when you can pick any possible topic in existence.
Starting from topics that interest you is key. What have you been thinking about lately? What news have you been following? What do you enjoy doing? What is something you are curious about that you don't know anything about? No matter how weird the topic is, there is usually a way to make it into a topic that is researchable on an academic level.
But doing that is going to take a bit of work. So here are some things to consider before getting started:
Brainstorming is a good way to explore topic paths that you can take and is a vital part of the planning part of research. There are many ways to brainstorm, so choose the way that makes the most sense to your learning style. Be as visual or as textual as you want.
The main point of brainstorming is to explore connections between concepts within a topic. For example, if you really love dogs, you can look into different aspects of what you like about dogs. Even a topic as broad as dogs has a lot of different researchable sub-topics.
Start making a list of the things you like about dogs:
It helps to look at topics in the news and other media. Usually the news will report on new and breakthrough studies that are related to your topic, so doing a quick search will give you ideas about where to begin when it comes to brainstorming directions your topic can go in.
Once you have a list, you can start exploring the connections. Some people like to create a mind map to connect their ideas and visualize a topic. This can help you see the connections and brainstorm even further as you start coming up with ideas and seeing how they relate to each other.
As you learn more about your topic, you'll know what direction to take it in. Brainstorming alone won't provide you with all the possible sub-topics to choose from. Doing a quick search on Google or another search engine can help you see what people have written about the topic and provide you with additional sub-topic ideas. Background searching helps you see the big picture.
For example, If someone was interested in researching marijuana use because it's all over the news, they could do a quick search online and look at some of the top websites. This would give them some context for what's going on in the news, what is generally said or believed about it, and could give them ideas about what more they want to learn about.
You can add what you've learned from your Google search to your mind map to make even more connections. Maybe you want to know how one facet of your topic relates to another. How does dog walking relate to mental and physical health? Is there a connection between puppy farming and animal cruelty? The more you learn the basics of the topic, the more you will know what you want to know more about, in greater detail, enough for you to write you paper on.
This is the process that you will follow in the INFO 1010 Module 2 assignment, where you start with your broad topic and use Google searches to get ideas about keywords and phrases to help narrow your topic.
One resource you're probably familiar with is Wikipedia. You've probably been told that you can't use it in your papers. That's only true if you are trying to use it as a cited source. As an encyclopedia, it's too general to use as a cited source, but it is great for getting the background information you need.
Use Wikipedia (or any other encyclopedia) to understand the basics of the topic. Skimming the introduction can give you a good summary of the broad topic. Usually there are hyperlinks to specific aspects of the topic that can provide you with ideas for how to broaden or narrow your focus. For example, if you were interested in Marijuana, just the first couple of paragraphs links to pages on psychoactive drugs, recreational drugs, and medicinal drugs. It also highlights the common ways it is used, as well as the effects, both short and long-term. Any of these could lead to a more focused version of your topic.
Looking at the table of contents can also help you see the different directions you could potentially take as you quickly go to the sections and read some basic details about that aspect of the topic.
Make note of terms you see frequently while reading the sections that interest you. These are often more technical terms. For example, marijuana is also called cannabis. "Recreational marijuana" refers to when it's used for fun, while "medicinal marijuana" or "medical cannabis" are terms used when it's used to treat patients.
Where to look for topic ideas in the SUU Library web page:
Below are a few general online reference sources, (encyclopedias, dictionaries, handbooks), that may help you find a topic that interests you:
These databases can all be found by selecting Find a Database which is just under the "Search the Library" search bar, then selecting General Research from the All Subjects drop down box on the top left-hand side of the page.