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Prof. Joseph - COMM109 - Spring 2024

Choosing a Topic

Choosing a topic for a speech, research paper, or other product can be challenging.
Choosing a topic helps you answer the first essential research question: What am I looking for?

Consider the task. What are you being asked to think about? to research? to discuss? Often you begin with big, broad categories or goals.

Next, consider ways to customize and narrow the broad area of interest to one that works for you. Remember that you will be spending significant time thinking about, researching, and developing your speech so investing time and effort into this part of the process matters.

Some questions you might ask yourself as you brainstorm ideas:

  • What big ideas interest me?
  • What do I already know about these ideas?
  • What do I want/need to learn about these ideas to be confident in discussing and arguing about them in a paper or speech?
  • What search terms will lead to potentially useful articles?
  • What library databases are best suited to this search?

Database Tools to Find/Refine Topics

Gale's databases including Academic OneFile offer tools to help you choose a topic and to refine that topic. [Gale is the vendor, the platform. There are many Gale databases.]

In Subject Guide Search, search for a general topic. Consider the many subdivisions (subtopics) of the broader idea as well as related topics/ideas. 

Use Topic Finder to dig deeper into an idea: how it connects to other ideas, ways to narrow the topic by dates or geography, and logical ways to think about the topic.

Find Subject Guide Search and Topic Finder at the bottom of the landing (home) page for the Gale database.

Screenshot of the Subject Guide Search from Gale databases

Screenshot of Topic Finder from the Gale databases

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