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Current Issues: Choosing a Topic

This section provides guidance on brainstorming and refining research topics. 

Developing a topic is generally the first step in researching for an assignment. A well-chosen topic can make the research process more manageable and enjoyable. 

Your instructor might assign a topic, or you have the freedom to choose your own. Use some of the suggestions below to refine and solidify your topic.

Quick Tips for Topics

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Developing a Topic

In general, a good research topic is: 

  • Not too broad and not too narrow
    • You want your research topic to be juuuuuust right - it should be able to be broken down into 2 or 3 important concepts, and you should get a manageable amount of results that give you the information you need.
  • Something people have researched on before
    • With the exception of a current events assignment that allows the use of newspapers or other non-academic sources, a good topic will be long enough ago that other people have investigated and written on it. 
  •  One that matches the scope and requirements of your assignment
    • Are you required to find and use a lot of resources? Don't pick too narrow and specific a topic if you need to find 10 articles on it!

Perhaps you have to write a short paper on something related to your chosen career field. Maybe you're interested in pursuing something in animal science. It would be difficult to write 5 pages on something so broad as all of animal science. What would you want to include? What questions do you have about that topic that you would like to see answered? What specifically are you looking to do with your degree? Are there current debates or conversations within the field that interest you, and that you can take a stance in? 

Staying with our example of animal science, let's explore other ways you can narrow down your topic: 

Geographically - limit by a region, country, state, or city.

  • Ex: "Livestock welfare regulations in the European Union" or "Veterinary practices in the rural Midwest." 

Chronologically - limit by a time period.

  • Ex: "Advancements in animal breeding during the 20th century" or "Historical perspectives on veterinary medicine in ancient civilizations" 

People or Groups - limit to a specific person or group.

  • Ex: "The contribution of Temple Grandin in livestock treatment advancements" or "The role of livestock breeders associations on genetic improvement." 

Current or Historical Events - limit to a particular event.

  • Ex: "How the COVID-19 pandemic changed public health measures related to zoonotic diseases" or "How the successful cloning of Dolly the sheep impact livestock practices." 

Specific Examples - limit to specific examples of a broad topic.

  • Ex: instead of animal science broadly, research sustainable fish farming, animal-assisted therapy, or exotic veterinary practice. 

Places to Start

If you explored the link in the above example, you might have noticed it took you to a website with information about animal science published by the American Society of Animal Science. You might find a similar, reputable website relating to your broader topic that helps you find your focus. Click here for guidance on using the broader internet for your research.