Be aware of how recent your topic is and availability of enough information about it. Very recent topics (e.g. COVID-19) will not have made their way into the scholarly discussion yet, meaning there may not be any related peer-reviewed sources published.
To learn more about the flow of information, study the chart from UCLA Library:
Conducting background research can help you learn more about your topic, and may also help you refine your focus. By knowing more about your topic's background, you can develop a more defined topic and a stronger research paper.
Explore some of our library databases by doing searches on a topic to see what information is out there. The following might be especially helpful to get you started:
You can also browse news sources to see what types of topics are being discussed for a starting point. For a list of news sources Bentley Library has access to consult our Current News Resources Research Guide.
Brainstorming and doing preliminary research can help you come up with ideas for aspects of your topic you would like to explore further.
If you have a large topic, you may need to narrow your research and question to be more manageable due to time constraints and resources available. One suggestion is to focus on a specific aspect of the topic such as:
Consider constructing a concept map to help you narrow a topic that may be too broad. A concept map is a visual tool that helps show the relationship between ideas. Concept maps begin with a main idea and then branch out to show how the idea can be broken down into sub-topics. Concept maps can help you brainstorm new ideas and organize information. Notice that the concept map arranges related ideas in a hierarchy. You start off broad and the sub-topics will get more and more specific. See the example below for a topic on "homelessness".
Once you have a topic, the next step is to develop a research question. Your professor will be helping you along the way but there are various things to consider in developing a good research question.
Good research questions are open-ended, meaning they do not necessarily have a simple yes or no answer and require you to consult a number of sources. Some research questions involve investigating a cause and effect, comparing two or more ideas, or measuring efficacy though there are many different types of questions to be asked.
For more information on research questions, please see the document below.