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The Research Process

This guide will give you a brief overview of the different steps in the research process.

Topic Selection

For some assignments, you may need to select a research topic. Sometimes your instructor will give you a list to choose from and other times you will get to decide on your own topic. 

When you are choosing a topic, you want make that your topic is not too broad or too narrow for your assignment, so you might need to do a little background research in one of the library's databases before you can decide if a topic is too broad or too narrow. You don't want a topic that is so broad that you'll never be able to fit the information into your project requirements, or a topic that is so narrow that there are no sources about it.

The number of search results may give you a clue as to whether your topic is too broad or too narrow. 

Topic Number of Results Too Broad or Too Narrow?
Global Warming 40,000+ results Too Broad
Global Warming Impact on Spartanburg Community College 0 results Too Narrow
Polar Ice Caps Melting 1,500 results Just right

Another way to think about it is if a topic sounds like it could have a whole book written about it, like Global Warming, it is probably too broad. However, if a topic sounds like it would just be a chapter in a whole book, like the polar ice caps melting in a book about Global Warming, then it is probably more narrow.

Tips for Choosing a Topic

How do you choose a topic for research? Here are a few tips to try:

  • Choose a topic you are interested in or want to learn more about.
  • When you are doing background research, what makes you say "Why?" or "How?"
  • Look for gaps in information about a topic or conflicting issues on a topic.

See more information about choosing a topic in the Choose Your Topic Research Guide.