Ask a Librarian

icon services

Any Question, Anytime

Research by Subject

icon open book

Research Guides A-Z, Course Support Guides

Subject Specialists

icon group

Contact Your Subject Specialist


icon instruction

Schedule a Session, Assignment Planning & Design

Home >> Research & Instruction >> Research Services Blog >> How to Pick a Research Topic
People brainstorming around a table

Are your project deadlines coming up? Do you need to write a paper but you're lacking direction? Read on for topic tips.

Finding a Topic

There are a number of ways to find a topic for your paper or project.  Below are some suggestions on where to look for inspiration.

  • Course Material: Look back over your class lecture notes, readings, and through your textbook.
  • Brainstorm: Speak with classmates, professors or TAs to get ideas.
  • Use Library Resources: Check out the resources below to help find a topic.
  • Think about your own interests: This is your project, so pick something you find interesting.

Library Resources

The library has a number of resources that may help you find a topic of interest.

Collection of online reference books published by Gale. Many of the books in this database are specialized encyclopedias in specific subject areas.  For example, Encyclopedia of the Social and Cultural Foundations of Education and The Gale Encyclopedia of Neurological Disorders.

In-depth reports on current and controversial issues with complete summaries, pro and con discussions of all sides of the issues, bibliographies and more.

Collection of electronic reference books, dictionaries, and encyclopedias.

This guide points you to databases that have news and newspapers within them. You can search in these databases to find coverage on your potential topic or brainstorm topics using keyword searching.

Additional Reading/Resources to help find a topic

Next Steps

Once you have a topic in mind, you can do some preliminary or background research to help you define your topic by either broadening or narrowing your topic to a manageable research project.  The library resources listed above can help with this process.  You can also look at a Research Guide in your larger topical area to find specialized databases on your subject area.  Here is a link to the Research Guides, which are organized by college or discipline, or general topic. 

Remember, when beginning your research:

  • Break down your topic question into key words prior to searching in the database
  • It is helpful to brainstorm key words, subjects, terms and concepts associated with your main topic. Thinking about similar words that can be used to describe your topic can be helpful when searching.
  • Use these keywords to create searches in library databases to find journal articles and other information on your selected topic.
If you have questions or need help refining your topic make an appointment with a reference librarian with subject specialty in your area, or ask our live chat.

Contact Us

Research Services Contact

Location: Library Addition, 1st Floor
Phone 619.594.6728  Text: 619.567.9743

sdsu library research services interior