Skip to Main Content

Research Process: Define Topic

Adapted from a 2002 Sonoma State University Research Process tutorial, Red Deer College LibGuide, and

Brainstorming tools

The following tools can be helpful as you brainstorm ideas:

Define Your Topic or Problem

  • Clarify your information needs
    • What is your assignment?
    • What are you really being asked to do?
    • State your proposed topic or problem in a  sentence or two.
    • Ask yourself the who, what, where, when and why questions.
  • Organize your thoughts
    • Break the topic into subtopics or key concepts
    • Jot down synonyms or other words to convey each concept.
    • Think of broader or narrower terms that might also be appropriate.
  • Develop an overview of the topic(s).
    • Browse encyclopedias, handbooks, almanacs, or journal contents to gather some background information.
  • Become familiar with the terminology, including synonyms.
    • Browse dictionaries and encyclopedias, thesauri.
    • Precision searching is important when using electronic databases, so spend some time identifying appropriate terms.
  • Keep notes/records

Learn More

Creative Commons License
Eva B. Dykes Library Libguides by Oakwood University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.