Choose a Topic
Not sure what to write about? These sources will help you generate ideas and decide on a topic.
Sometimes the most difficult part of writing a paper is deciding on a topic. Make sure you choose a topic that interests you. The following sources are great for generating ideas.
A project of the Independent Media Institute, this site publishes articles from alternative and independent news sources. Their home page contains articles about current events, and their archives are available for free.
Select a topic such as business, sci-tech, or health to read current articles. Use interesting articles as a jumping off point for further research.
This publication provides a balanced report of a single "hot" issue in the news in depth each week. Topics range from social and teen issues to environment, health, education and science and technology. Search for topics or browse current and past issues.
This site gathers popular news stories from more than 4,500 English-language sources worldwide.
Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center
Browse a list of controversial social issues and read about different viewpoints.
Browse the Periodicals Room
Look for interesting articles in news magazines to develop topic ideas. Consider the different perspectives and biases represented in the publication. Titles are arranged alphabetically on the shelves in the Periodical Room, which is on the entry level floor of PCL. Some titles to consider:
The Atlantic Monthly / The Economist / Harper’s / Mother Jones / The Nation /
National Review / The New Republic / Newsweek / The Progressive / Time
Find Background Information
Once you decide on a topic you will probably need to locate background information such as important terms and concepts, relevant names of people or places, and dates of specific events. The following databases can be great sources for finding this information.
Gale Virtual Reference Library
A full-text database of encyclopedias, almanacs, and specialized reference sources.
Oxford Reference Online
A full-text database that includes subject encyclopedias, dictionaries, and reference works in more than 20 subject areas.
For more information, please see the Finding Background Information guide.
Narrow Your Topic
If you selected a broad topic, you will probably need to narrow your focus after you've gathered some background information. The best research topics usually study an effect or impact of one concept on a topic. For example, if you selected the broad topic of "censorship" you could focus the paper to study:
- The effect of censorship on high school newspapers.
- The impact of military censorship on freedom of the press during wartime.
- The effect of parental advisory stickers on music sales.
Need help? Ask A Librarian.