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Choosing a Topic for a Research Paper: Find Ideas

Do you need to write a research paper, but you don't know what to write about? We have some tips for finding ideas and refining your topic.

Browse for Topics

These databases let you browse through reports on current issues, and present different perspectives on controversial topics.

Credo Reference
Articles from hundreds of published reference works, and collections of resources for convenient topic browsing.
Issues & Controversies
Coverage and analysis of hundreds of today's hot topics.
Opposing Viewpoints in Context
Covers today's hottest social issues, from capital punishment to immigration to violent video games. Differing views of the issues are presented which help students develop information literacy, critical thinking skills, and the confidence to draw their own valid conclusions.
Points of View Reference Center
Designed to assist researchers in understanding the full scope of controversial subjects, can be used as a guide to debating, developing arguments, writing position papers, and developing critical thinking skills. Each essay includes a series of questions and additional material to generate further thought.

In the News

These are news publications and news databases. Often published daily or weekly, they offer the most up-to-date information on current events. General coverage research databases like EBSCO Academic Search Complete and MasterFILE Complete may also have articles you may find useful for your topic.

Chronicle of Higher Education
A premier source of news, information, and jobs for college and university faculty and administrators.  Offers comprehensive coverage of current issues in higher education.
The New York Times
Leading source of national and international news. More information about accessing the New York Times (it works differently from our other databases).
Newspaper Source Plus
Includes more than 860 full-text newspapers, providing more than 35 million full-text articles. Newspaper Source Plus also features more than 857,000 television and radio news transcripts.
Full-text news items from the Associated Press.
ProQuest US West Newsstream
Full-text articles from 270 news sources from Alaska, California, Hawaiʻi, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. Includes the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Honolulu Advertiser, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, and Hawaiʻi Business.
Online version of the world's leading outlet of science news, information, and cutting-edge research.

Research Techniques

Check out the Research Challenge to learn about the library research process.

The Information Literacy Tutorials for ENG 16 & ESL 21/22 or for ENG 100 teach how to use library research tools and evaluate the usefulness of information you find.

See the Researching Hot Topics guide for tips on researching specific topics like addiction, artificial intelligence, the environment, COVID-19, crime, social justice, social media, and local issues.

We have many other guides for specific courses and subjects.

Other Tips

Read your assignment carefully. Make sure the topic you are interested in fulfills the requirements. Check with your professor if you aren't sure.

Use an encyclopedia to get an overview of a topic. If you have to write about something that you are not very familiar with, an encyclopedia can help you get a basic understanding of the topic. Be aware that your professor might not allow you to cite an encyclopedia as a source for your paper, but you can still read it to develop your knowledge.