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Information Literacy Tutorial: 2. Understanding & Defining Your Topic

How to Use Section 2

Part 2 of the tutorial consists of 3 sections (A, B & C) containing readings, videos and questions. First read through the information and watch the videos on pages 2.A, 2.B, and 2. C. When finished take the quiz at the end of section C.  The content in these sections is best followed from top-to-bottom beginning with the left column.

2. A. Understanding & Defining Your Topic
2. B. Focusing Your Topic
2. C. Research Questions

After completing this part of the tutorial students will be able to:

  • Describe the research process, and apply appropriate methods for developing a topic.
  • Analyze a research question to identify key concepts and terms in order to locate relevant sources.

The content in these sections is best followed from top-to-bottom beginning with the left column.

2. A. Research

winding road

CC by Srdjan Marincic

Research is iterative and depends upon asking increasingly complex or new questions whose answers in turn develop additional questions or lines of inquiry in any field (Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education, 2015). This statement embodies both the frustrations and satisfaction of conducting research. By researching a topic, you are entering a new world of knowledge which comes with many challenges. 

While a research assignment may not be what you’ve been dreaming of, it can be rewarding, and accomplished by following some basic steps and being flexible. Throughout this tutorial we will outline ways to help you approach a research assignment. Whether you’re researching a topic for a class, or trying to decide what kind of car to buy, the process is the same.

2. A. How to Choose Your Topic

Follow these steps to choose a topic:

  1. Choose a topic that can be researched

  2. Write down what you know about the topic

  3. Conduct background research to understand how to focus your topic

  4. List questions that you would like answered to help narrow your topic

  5. Choose a question that is focused, interesting, and not too broad to guide your research

  6. Evaluate your question

  7. Develop your thesis

2. A. How to Develop a Good Research Topic

2. A. Research Topic Checklist

boxIs your topic something that you’re interested in?

boxDo you have enough time to research your topic?

boxIs your topic too broad or too narrow?

boxDo you have access to the resources you will need to research your topic?

boxDoes your topic/question contribute a new spin on the topic?

boxIs your research question measurable?

2. A. Flow Chart of the Research Process

A sample flow chart of the research process.


2. A. How to approach a research paper

Consult your Professor


Consult a Librarian

exploring topics


Consult the Writing Center