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Choosing a Topic

Selecting a topic is often one of the most difficult parts of doing research. If you have a choice of research topics, start by choosing a topic you like, or one you are curious about. Here are some more suggestions:

  • Browse a subject encyclopedia (in print or online) for ideas, concepts, and vocabulary
  • Browse newspapers (in print or online) for topic ideas; but watch out, if the topic is extremely new there may not be enough written about it yet to satisfy your assignment
  • Do some exploratory searches in an article database like Expanded Academic ASAP and read some abstracts there
  • Talk to your Professor or to a reference librarian — they can show you how to use online resources and help with your topic selection

Is your topic too big? Is it too narrow? Will you be able to find enough on the topic? You won't know for sure until you get started, but developing a good keyword list, including some broader and narrower terms for your topic, will help and it's quick and easy to do. Start by doing some background reading.

Background Check

A quick background check now saves time later. Taking a few minutes now to read about your topic in a specialized encyclopedia, dictionary or handbook may save you a lot of time later. These books are useful for discovering the names of important people and learning the vocabulary of the field. Encyclopedia articles often include carefully selected bibliographies, or lists of references to other works, which will help you begin looking for additional information.

The Reference shelves behind the Reference Desk are filled with books that can help you develop your topic. We also have a growing collection of online encyclopedias, which you can find in SAILS, our online catalog.

After the background check, the next step in developing your topic is to brainstorm the keywords for your search. 

Contact Details

Fall River Campus Library
777 Elsbree St, Fall River, MA 02720
Phone: 508.678.2811, ext. 2105
Location: Building A

Spring semester hours

M-R: 7:30am - 9:00pm
F: 7:30am - 6:00pm
S: 10:00am - 6:00pm
U: 11:00am - 6:00pm

New Bedford Campus Library
188 Union Street, New Bedford, MA 02740
Phone: 508.678.2811, ext. 4009
Location: NS164

Spring semester hours

M-R: 7:30am - 7:30pm
F: 7:30am - 4:00pm
S: 8:30am - 3:00pm
U: 8:30am - 3:00pm

Attleboro Campus Library
11 Field Road, Attleboro, MA 02703
Phone: 508.678.2811, ext. 3745
Location: 107

Spring semester hours:

M-R: 8:00AM - 7:30PM
F: 8:00AM - 4:00PM
S: 8:30AM - 12:30PM
Su: Closed

Event Calendar

Date: Tue, 5 May 2015 13:30:00 GMT

Commonwealth of Massachusetts: Rehabilitation Commission Staff Meeting (5/5/2015)


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Date: Tue, 5 May 2015 14:00:00 GMT

General Campus Tour and Information Session (5/5/2015)


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Date: Tue, 5 May 2015 18:00:00 GMT

Fall River Career Center Visits (5/5/2015)


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Date: Tue, 5 May 2015 19:00:00 GMT

Financial Aid Workshop - New Bedford (5/5/2015)


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