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English 200

Choosing a Topic

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


choosing a topic


  • Choose a topic that interests you. It will be much easier to research, analyze, and write about!
  • Use your class discussions, current world events, or class texts for inspiration.
  • Do some preliminary research, such as reading a newspaper or scanning an encyclopedia article.

Ask the Who, What, When, Where and Why questions:

  • WHY did you choose the topic?  What interests you about it?  Do you have an opinion about the issues involved?
  • WHO is it about?  Who might write about it?  Who is affected by the topic?  Do you know of organizations or institutions affiliated with the topic?
  • WHAT are the major questions for this topic?  Is there a debate about the topic?  Are there a range of issues and viewpoints to consider?
  • WHERE is important to your topic: is it local, national or international?  Are there specific places affected by the topic?
  • WHEN is/was your topic important?  Is it a current event or an historical issue?  Can you compare your topic by time periods?



Selecting a Topic

The ability to develop a good research topic is an important skill. An instructor may assign you a specific topic, but most often instructors require you to select your own topic of interest. When deciding on a topic, there are a few things that you will need to do:

  • brainstorm for ideas
  • choose a topic that will enable you to read and understand the literature
  • ensure that the topic is manageable and that material is available
  • make a list of key words
  • be flexible
  • define your topic as a focused research question
  • research and read more about your topic
  • formulate a thesis statement

Check Out this great site from University of Michigan-Flint which covers this topic:

How to Select a Research Topic (from the University of Michigan-Flint

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.  

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

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

(270) 745-6156

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