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Research Process

Developing Your Topic

Choosing Your Topic > Narrowing or Broadening Your Topic
What Makes a 
Good Topic

Is the topic interesting to you? 
The easiest topics to work are the ones you find most interesting. Look for something that will be useful to you in your courses or in the future.

Does the topic fit the purpose of the assignment? 
Read through your assignment for suitable topic ideas. These are often ideas and not your only choices.

Is the information you need available? Peruse the library catalog and online databases to see what reliable information is available. 
Tips for Choosing a Research Topic
  • Brainstorm: What interests you about what you have seen, read, or heard recently? Think about what you would like to learn more about. Write down all the topics that pop in your head. 
  • Share: Discuss your topic ideas with classmates, friends, instructors or a librarian.
  • Browse: Browse the GSIS library Destiny catalog, reference encyclopedias and dictionaries, or browse topics in the online subject databases.
  • Understand expectations: Be clear on the expectations of your assignment. Read your assignment closely and look for key instructions that might help you decide which topic is most suitable.
  • Keep it interesting: If permitted, select a topic that interests you. The easiest topics to work with are ones you find exciting and keep you motivated to learn more.
  • Tolerate uncertainty: Tolerate some uncertainty at this early stage of your research; you will not have all the answers now, but work with what you have. Pick a topic and move forward with your research process. You can always make changes later.
Strategies for Focusing Your Topic
Once you have a topic you are interested in researching and writing about, you will need to narrow your topic  and identify the question or questions you will answer. Start by doing some background reading.

Background Reading: Spending time browsing information in encyclopedias, the table of contents and indexes in books including textbooks or course readings, and even websites is helpful in thinking about your topic in different ways. Use the key terms and concepts you find on a concept map.

Concept Map: A concept map is a tool used to help you generate ideas about your topic and think about the relationships among these ideas. Below is an example of a concept map for the topic climate change. As you discover ideas that are interesting to you, what questions do have you?

Formulate a question: Formulate a research question by completing the following sentence: "I want information on..." Narrowing you topic to a research question will provide focus and lead to developing your thesis.

Adapted from: Search Smart: An Introduction to Academic Research, University of Victoria Libraries

Locating Information at the GSIS Library

The GSIS library website is:

This should be bookmarked in your browser.  Logon information for databases at GSIS is here:


Logon information in order to save catalog resources in Destiny is on our Secondary Library > Destiny Catalog > Home page


A Research Guide - Parenthetical in-text

Videos on using Questia