Skip to Main Content

Research: Choosing & Refining Your Topic

This guide is designed to help you get started using the UNLV Libraries.


time crunch happy faceYou have a research project !

Now what?

Choosing a Topic

Step 1: Topic Selection


Choosing your topic is one of the most important steps of your research assignment.


Explore your Research Ideas


First check the assignment requirements. Make sure you can meet those requirements with the topic you pick.


Then Ask yourself


Is my topic researchable?

illustration of man on path confused where to goWhat am I interested in?


What do I need to learn?


Other considerations: 

Do I know enough about my topic?

Where do I find information about my topic?



Write Down All of Your Ideas

Use one of these activities to help

graphic of a brain illustrating brain storming

Listing: List all the ideas for your research assignment. Good and Bad: write everything! Group similar words together, add ideas.

Freewriting: Write nonstop for 10 minutes. Review your writing and highlight useful information.

Clustering or Mind Map: Write a brief explanation or Ask a question. Circle main concepts. Draw three or more lines and add corresponding ideas.

Questioning: Write out: “Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?” then write your answers for each.

mind map illustration

Topic Development

Step 2: Do Some Background Research

Remember this is a dynamic process so your research question and scope will adjust to the information you begin to gather.

Find & learn:

  • a definition
  • a statistic
  • other general information on your topic

​This is only a starting point. You will follow-up by verifying with other credible sources and experts.


Gather information to inform your topic:

  • talk to specialist, like your instructor or TA
  • explore Subject Guides
  • do some beginning research

  Try these databases:


North Carolina Sate University Libraries created a video to explain the importance of finding background information for your topic.

Topic Narrowing

Step 3: Consider the Scope of Your Topic

You want a research topic that is not too broad or too narrow, but just right. 

It may take many attempts, updates and changes. That’s part of the research process.

Too Broad?

Finding too much information?  Your topic may be too broad and you may need to make it more specific.  Consider limiting using one or more of the following aspects:

  • time period
  • location
  • event
  • population

Too Narrow?

Can't find enough information?  If you find that you can't find enough evidence for your topic, you might want to broaden it by considering:

  • expanding the time period
  • increasing locations
  • exploring related issues
  • considering historical contexts


Too Broad

Too Narrow

Food Safety

History of organic food labeling of pork products in Portland, Oregon

History of U.S. presidency

Women’s rights in Morpeth England during July 1732


Need clarification? Got questions? Ask Us! via chat or text.

Questions? Ask Us! logo

Or make an appointment for a one-on-one research consultation.

Research Process


Get more tips about the research process in this short video created by UNLV Libraries.

© University of Nevada Las Vegas