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Introduction to Academic Research

Everything you need to know to begin a research project

Finding a Topic

In this video from ProQuest's Research Companion, find out why you should avoid topics you feel strongly about and pick topics you're curious about instead. 

Be More Specific

Narrowing Your Topic:

  • Identify a topic you feel curious about and about which you'd like to learn more.
  • Brainstorm (list) or free write (paragraph) about your topic to see if one aspect stands out in your mind.
  • Do some background reading to get a better grasp and understand the many dimensions of your topic. Library encyclopedias, online encyclopedias, even Wikipedia are all good places to start. 
  • Narrow your topic further by people (gender, age), place (state, region, or country), or time period.
  • Formulate a research question.


Let's say you want to write about food insecurity, but your professor says food insecurity is too broad. You might consider narrowing your topic down by the following scopes: 

  • people (food insecurity among elderly women, for example)
  • place (food insecurity in Appalachia, for example)
  • time period (food insecurity in the U.S. over the past ten years, for example)

Using the above criteria and the background reading you did, you might come up with the following research question: 
What impact do free summer lunch programs have on food insecurity rates among school-aged children?

"Narrowing Your Topic" from ProQuest's Research Companion