Skip to main content

English 100

Everything an English 100 student will need to know

Choosing a Topic

Getting Started Writing a Paper and Doing Research Begins with Choosing a Topic


choosing a topic

Choosing a topic is one of the most important parts of writing a great paper. If you choose the right topic, it will be easier to write your paper and it will automatically be better!  Here are some tips to help you choose a research topic. 

1. Select something that interests you. Your reader can tell if you are interested in your own topic - your enthusiasm will show in your writing. If you don't have a choice about the topic, try to find an angle that could make it interesting to you.  A paper can get better grade because the your interest will not only improve the paper, but make writing the paper less of a chore.
2. Choose something you know about. Pick something you already know about to write about. It will make the writing process faster and easier because you already have a lot of the information in your head. That means less research on your part and less effort in writing the paper.
3. Narrow your topic down.   Your first idea will almost always be too big. Keep refining it until its manageable.
4. Find your approach to the topic. When you have a topic, refine it to one aspect to help focus your paper. Refining the topic can be as easy as limiting the topic by country, time period, or some controversial aspect. Focus on one element, or one part  of a larger topic so it is a manageable size. Use your thesis statement to define what your are going to write about.

5. Start researching. If you have a vague idea of what you want to write about, get on the internet, use Google, Wikipedia, or use some books for ideas.  Once you have the concept of your paper, THEN you can research it for scholarly material using databases for articles, and the catalog for books.
6. Brainstorm. Write a list of ideas or things that interest you. Start writing some words that remind you of your topic. Write down some of the topics that are possible. Write down anything that pops into your head and keep writing until you have about a page full. 
7. What interests you. What do you spend most of your time doing or thinking about? Often whatever it is that you do in your spare time could be merged into a paper topic. There are ways to use things you do every day to develop them into a research paper. Just be creative and think out of the box. 
8. Ask a teacher, librarian, or advisor. Stuck for a specific topic or angle?  Ask a teacher, parent, mentor, or a librarian for some suggestions on what to write about.
9. Stick with a familiar topic. You may have a topic you've written about before that would work for the basis of a new paper. Simply brainstorm related topics or consider different aspects of the same idea. You might even be able to reuse some previous research.  Your expertise will make researching and writing this paper faster.
10. I can't think of anything! What do I do? Pick something (anything!) you know about and get started (i.e.: food, pets, businesses, favorite brands, celebrities in any area, etc.). When you start writing you will be amazed at how much you have to say. If you have to turn in a thesis statement in advance, come up with your best idea but keep searching for a better one. If you come across something better, most professors will let you change your topic. If you are interested in topic, the paper will be much easier to write.

focus your topic

If you have questions or need help, contact Common's Reference Desk in Helm (270 745-6125) or your subject specialist librarian. 

Beginning the Search

Often choosing a topic can be the hardest part of a research paper. You will need to start with a broad idea of your topic and then focus in on what aspect really interests you.  You can use many resources to find your broad topic, including Wikipedia (for general ideas only), databases, and books.  But they are just a jumping off point of ideas. 


  • Wikipedia  You can use a resource like this popular internet encyclopedia to research ideas you'd like to explore. It can help you pick a good topic to write about, but the Wikipedia is NOT scholarly.  Use it for general information only, not as a resource in your papers.
  • Google  You can use any search engine to explore any terms, companies, teams, resources, countries, or subjects you can think of to get a broad idea of what to write about.


Opposing Viewpoint Series  WKU has a great selection of Opposing Viewpoint books.  These books are designed for Freshman and Sophmore  students and provide informed pro/con and point/counterpoint viewpoints on a variety of controversial research topics.  Just go to the library catalog page and type in  "opposing viewpoints" to view the 500 plus selection our library has.

Search for Topics using Research Guides

If you are not sure where to start, begin with the Research Guide for you Major (minor or main interest).  Research Guides are designed to help you find information specifically in that subject area.  It will tell you the best databases to use for your subject, and refer you to books and websites which might be useful.  

Defining your Research Question


good research question?

Determining the scope of your paper to fit the length is important.  Begin with a broad topic and continue to refine the topic to a specific aspect of a topic. A topic such as terrorism is probably too broad for a short paper.

When you are selecting a subject to write about, it is important to know how to phrase your topic sentence. You might want to consider phrasing your topic as a question to ensure that you will answer the basic question of who, what, when, where, why, and how.

An example of a question can be: 

  • What is the relationship between United States intelligence operations and terrorism?  

Coming up with examples of topics is part of a stage of paper writing sometimes known as prewriting.


Mapping the Topic

A helpful technique for narrowing a topic is to map out how you will refine your topic.

Begin by putting your main idea at the top as a starting point and then list subtopics or related topics. These Topics may lead you subjects to explore.  Keep going until you have a topic you think you can work with!

WKU Writing Center Information

If you should have difficulties and need help with your  writing, please contact the folks at the Writing Center to make an appointment for someone to work with you one-on-one. 

WKU Writing Center

               Cherry Hall 123

Monday - Friday: 9 am - 4 pm

                Cravens Library

Sunday & Monday: 5 pm - 9 pm

Tuesday - Thursday: 4 pm - 9 pm

                                             CLOSED ON MAJOR HOLIDAYS                                                                           

Phone: (270) 745-5719

Subject Guide

Jack Montgomery's picture
Jack Montgomery
Address: 304 Cravens Library, 1906 College Heights Blvd. #11067, Bowling Green, KY 42101

(270) 745-6156

Chat and FAQs



Subject Guide

Jack Montgomery's picture
Jack Montgomery
Address: 304 Cravens Library, 1906 College Heights Blvd. #11067, Bowling Green, KY 42101

(270) 745-6156