7 Developing a Topic

Librarians get many questions from students about developing topics for research papers.  We are happy to meet with you to talk about your topic ideas and next steps!

Try to be flexible as you start thinking about a topic.  Review the parameters of the assignment, and speak with your professor if you need clarification about the scope of your research.  Do some background reading…what do you find most interesting?  What questions come to mind?  Background research and reading will help you gather more information and gain understanding about what research has already been done on the subject.

Many of us turn to Wikipedia for quick facts and background information on a topic.  Many professors frown upon using Wikipedia beyond that for your academic research.  Remember that anyone with internet access can write and edit Wikipedia articles.   Wikipedia articles typically have reference lists at the end of each article, with links to good, freely available web resources. Look for references that link to open source academic journals, books, government data, and other types of reliable sources that can be used in academic papers and projects.

Wikipedia can provide background information and facts, and so can online reference resources that are as easy to search as Wikipedia, but return results written by experts, and include more comprehensive bibliographies, often containing scholarly sources.  The library’s Online Reference guide features links to useful reference collections, with subject-specific encyclopedias and other sources. Ask a librarian if you need help!

More information is available through the library’s DIY Research Process guide. DIY Research

Watch: Picking Your Topic is Research!

“Find” © 2020 Bucknell University. All rights reserved.
“DIY Research” © 2020 Bucknell University. All rights reserved.

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Information Literacy Foundations by Nancy Frazier and Research Services, Bucknell University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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