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Choosing a Research Topic

Do you have a research assignment coming up that you need to choose a topic for? This guide will walk you through how to choose a topic for your assignment!

Concept Mapping

A concept map (also called a mind map) is a tool that you can use to help brainstorm a research topic or help you narrow down a general idea into a more focused idea. Concept maps can also be used to help you come up with a thesis statement for your assignment or to help you develop keywords that you can use in your database searching. 

Concept maps also help you see connections between some of your ideas and show you how many different directions you can take your research based on a single idea.

How to create a Concept Map

The great thing about concept maps is that they can look however you'd like and can be done either on a piece of paper or even done online. Some free online concept mapping tools are MindMup, Creately, and Lucidchart, although there are many other tools available.

Start with your main idea in the center of your map. Then to start building out your map, use the 5Ws + How (Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How) to start thinking about related concepts. For example, why is this topic so important? Who is influenced by your topic? Where did your topic take place?

Example Concept Map

The general topic of your paper, the Cost of College Tuition goes in the center of your page.

Using the 5Ws + How, you have built out a concept map, to give you a better sense of which directions your paper can go. For example, based on your concept map, you might decide to narrow down your topic to the impact the cost of college has on families or how decreases in state funding increased college tuition.


  • Who is impacted by the cost of college?
    • Students
    • Parents


  • What is happening with the cost of college?
    • Increasing to become too expensive.


  • When is the cost increasing?
    • Current issue.


  • Where is the cost so high?
    • United States
    • South Carolina


  • Why is the cost so high?
    • Decrease in state funding.


  • How can you pay for college?
    • Financial Aid.
    • Previous wealth.

Helpful Resources