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Research Process: An Overview: Choosing a Topic

This guide outlines the steps in the research process from developing a topic to crediting sources.


  • Topic selection
  • Brainstorm Questions
  • Tip: Keywords
  • Finding Topic Ideas Online
  • Read Background Information

TIP: Keywords

Keywords are the main terms that describe your research question or topic.  Keep track of these words so you can use them when searching for books and articles.

    Identify the main concepts in your research question. Typically there should only be two or three main concepts.
  • Look for keywords that best describe these concepts.
  • You can look for keywords when reading background information or encyclopedia articles on your topic
  • Use a thesaurus, your textbook and subject headings in databases to find different keywords.


Related Research Guides

APA Citation

Click through the tabs to learn the basics, find examples, and watch video tutorials.

English Writing Skills

This guide supports academic and business writing, including a basic review of grammar fundamentals, writing guides, video tutorials on business writing, and resources for the TOEFL, IELTS, and PTE exams.

Getting Started

Topic Selection

Choosing your topic is the first step in the research process. Be aware that selecting a good topic may not be easy. It must be narrow and focused enough to be interesting, yet broad enough to find adequate information. 


For help getting started on the writing process go to the GGU Online Writing Lab (Writing tutor) where you can set up and appointment with a writing tutor.


#1 Research tip: Pick a topic that interests you.  You are going to live with this topic for weeks while you research, read, and write your assignment. Choose something that will hold your interest and that you might even be excited about. Your attitude towards your topic will come across in your writing or presentation!

Brainstorming is a technique you can use to help you generate ideas. Below are brainstorming exercises and resources to help you come up with research topic ideas. 

Brainstorming Topic Ideas

Ask yourself the following questions to help you generate topic ideas:
  • Do you have a strong opinion on a current social or political controversy?
  • Did you read or see a news story recently that has interested you?
  • Do you have a personal issue, problem or interest that you would like to know more about?
  • Is there an aspect of one of your classes that you would like to learn more about?

Finding Topic Ideas

Topic Ideas

Try the resources below to help you get ideas for possible research topics:

Read Background Information

Background Information

Read an encyclopedia article on the top two or three topics you are considering. Reading a broad summary enables you to get an overview of the topic and see how your idea relates to broader, narrower, and related issues. If you cant find an article on your topic, ask a librarian for help.

SAGE Research MethodsSAGE Research Methods supports research at all levels by providing material to guide users through every step of the research process.

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