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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

How to Choose a Topic: Finding research topic ideas

A guide on choosing a topic from the Undergraduate Library

Using Wikipedia

Wikipedia can be a fantastic resource for finding a topic.

Start by navigating to the main topic page for something you are interested in. Click on a few links, and read some background information. Once you have narrowed your browsing to a few specific aspects of a topic, you can get started with your research. 

Remember--Wikipedia is not a credible, scholarly source, as it can be edited by anyone. If you're looking for background information, try the Online Reference Collection, or Ask a Librarian!

Where to find topic ideas

You'll be spending a bit of time on your research paper, so be sure to choose a topic that will sustain your interest! 

You can find ideas for research topics by using the following strategies and resources:

  • Scan your textbook and other class readings for topic ideas and suggestions
    Does something from class continue to pull at you? Move towards it. Begin to turn it into a concrete question.
  • Draw on what you have read or seen recently that interested you
    How do things that you encounter in your daily life connect with scholarship? How can we understand the world better when we look at it with tools and concepts learned in coursework?
  • Pick a topic relevant to your life 
    Considering a career in politics?  Hoping to start your own business?  Thinking of studying abroad next year? Choose a topic that allows you to learn about something you can apply to your daily life.
  • Talk to friends and teachers
    Start early by speaking with people you have a connection with. Scholarship is a conversation, consider how your conversations in life could spark some scholarly work. 
  • Check out our Subject Guides 
    Subject Guides cover a wide variety of topics and include resources to jump-start your research. 

Subject Guide

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Undergraduate Library
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