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Annotated Bibliographies: Research Your Topic

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Selecting a Topic

Sometimes instructors will assign a specific topic, but usually they will ask you to select a topic that interests you. When you choose your own topic, you will need to:

  • Brainstorm for ideas
  • Read general background information
  • Focus in on a topic
  • Make a list of keywords
  • Be flexible
  • Research and read more about your topic
  • Formulate a thesis statement or research question

Selecting a good topic is not easy. It must be narrow and focused enough to be interesting yet broad enough to find adequate information. Before you select your topic, make sure you know what your final research project should look like. Each instructor or class will have somewhat different requirements and purposes for research.

Use the steps below to help you carefully define and select your research topic.

Developing Keywords

There are several different approaches to organizing your research topic prior to searching for a literature review, but the most popular by far is the development of a set of essential keywords.

Keywords are short words and phrases that, when combined, describe more complex ideas and topics. For instance, the following keywords might be used to describe general research on the various effects of climate change of South American rainforests:

  • climate change
  • South America
  • rainforests
  • effects

Begin by creating a list of 3-5 "core" keywords based on the major concepts behind your research topic. Once you have generated this initial list extend it by including: 

  • Broader or narrower terms
  • Synonyms for terms
  • Related terms

Below is a textual map that will help to organize the keywords relative to your research topic.