Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Research Resources: Getting Started

All you need to know about all you need to know about research!


"If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on it, I would use the first 55 minutes determining the proper questions to ask. For once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than 5 minutes.

-Albert Einstein


Paper Topics

Qualities of a Good Research Question

1. Interesting to YOU!

2. Focused and manageable within the time/word limit

3. Offers something new (NOT descriptive or overdone)

4. Has context to narrow the topic (includes person, place, or time in history)

Strategies for defining a topic

Sometimes it can be overwhelming to come up with a topic and research question on your own. Here are some tips to help:

1. Develop a tentative focus. List what you know and want to know about a particular topic. Look at the questions that are most interesting to you.

2. Find background information on your topic. Read encyclopedias to get a general sense of your topic. As you read, you will learn more about your topic and you may come across a more specific focus you're interested in knowing more about.

3. Read magazine and newspapers. The articles are short and concise and can provide a general idea of key issues or controversies related to your topic.

4. Check out our Points of View Database. It lists a ton of controversial issues and provides reliable background information which might inspire you to learn more.

5. Read your textbooks. What have you learned in other classes that you'd like to know more about?

6. What's happening in your life? Where do you want to go to school? What job are you interested in? Where would you like to travel? Choose a topic that will apply to your life.

Written with material from the University of Illinois Libguides.

Add context to your question

War as a topic is too huge. So add some context to make it more narrow:




What was the significance of the Battle of the Bulge in the outcome of WWII?

Break it Down

I am studying... because I want to find out... so my readers understand...


about the Battle of the Bulge why it was such an important battle


Bloom's Taxonomy

The bottom of this inverted triangle (Remembering) represents the lowest level of critical thinking and the least interesting or challenging research topics. Aim for the top of the pyramid (Creating, Evaluating, and Analyzing). Try to develop a question which requires you to design, defend, compare/contrast, etc....