The first step in the research process is to identify a topic.
A topic is the subject you will be writing about. You may be assigned a topic by the instructor, or you may be given a list of topics to choose from, or you may be asked to write an essay on a topic of your choice. The last choice is often the most difficult for students. If you are stumped and don't know what to write about, the sources on the left may help you choose a topic.
Guidelines for choosing a topic:
1. Find a topic that interests you.
2. Find a topic that is just the right size, just the right scope. You may have to do some initial research on your topic to see how much information is available. Reading what has already been written about your topic may generate some ideas that you may want to explore. To find background information on your topic consult the sources on the left.
3. Your topic should not be too broad or general as there may be too much information.
Examples of broad topics: computers, 2012 elections, homelessness, drug abuse
4. Your topic should not be too narrow as there may not be enough information.
Example of a a narrow topic: homelessness and drug abuse in the town of West Haven, Connecticut.
If you are writing about computers think of what interests you about computers.
Ask yourself questions about the topic to arrive at a reasonable thesis statement about your stand on the topic. Sometimes asking the questions how, when, what, where, and why might help you narrow your topic. If you choose to write about social networks, here are some questions to ponder: Are social network sites good or bad? Does social networking improve the quality of our lives? What are the psychological and sociological effects of social networking? Is social networking affecting the labor market?
Once you decide on your topic, write down as many related words and ideas that come to mind such as "social networking" "online networking", "social tools", "online communication tools" or you could search by specific social networking tools such as MySpace, Facebook, Friendster, Twitter, Bebo, Linkedin, etc.
For more help on choosing a topic, consult Purdue's Online Writing Lab site: