Skip to content
Penn State University Libraries
this tutorial was awarded a PRIMO award

This tutorial, "Choosing a topic" has been accepted into the ALA/ACRL Instruction Section’s Peer-Reviewed Instructional Materials Online (PRIMO) project and added to the PRIMO database.


Amanda Clossen

Amanda S Clossen
Title: Learning Design Librarian

Help with this tutorial

Choosing a Topic

Choosing a topic does not seem like it should be difficult.

Unfortunately, it often is. 

Cartoon image of person flipping a table. "Example A, Choosing a Topic."

There can be a host of reasons for this, but a common one is that researchers select a topic, and then try to research it, often much later. This often leads to a few problems:

  • The topic is too broad, or too narrow.
  • The researcher doesn’t know the specific vocabulary used to describe the topic.
  • Not enough has been written on the topic to complete an assignment.

As a result, finding information tends to be frustrating, and yields results that are less than ideal.

The simple step of researching as a topic is selected can often make the entire process much easier. This can be done if you follow these steps.

  1. Make certain to select a topic that interests you (we can help with this!).
  2. Read some background information on your topic.
  3. Create a research question.
  4. Do a test search on your topic, to see what is out there.
  5. Broaden or narrow your topic as necessary.