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Reading Project Help

Help with Library projects for students in Reading classes.

Select and Narrow a Topic

How Can You Choose a Topic?

If your professor has not assigned a topic, you probably have to select one yourself. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Does it interest you? You will be reading articles about your topic so pick something that holds your interest.
  • Is there enough information out there? You may be very interested in a certain hobby, but have people written much about it?
  • Is it a current issue? Magazines and newspapers cover many subjects, but some are less popular after a while and might be difficult to locate.
  • Do you understand the topic well enough? We are all concerned about certain medical conditions, but sometimes they require a high level of scientific knowledge to understand the research.

A good place to start is the Issues tab on the Opposing Viewpoints Database. Here are some screenshots to show you how to use it. The actual link to the database is at the bottom of this box!

How Can You Narrow the Topic?

Once you have selected a broad topic, such as Global Warming or Drug Abuse, you should try to narrow your focus.  Here are some ways to narrow the topic:

  • Pick one aspect of the topic: Causes, Prevention,  Effects, Treatment.
  • Pick a location or subgroup:  New York, College Students, Teenagers, Athletes
  • Select a person closely related to the topic

Now you can put your narrower topic into a research question. Here are some examples:

What are the causes of global warming?
How can we prevent child abuse?
What are the effects of steroid use on athletes?
Why do college students use illegal drugs?

What Are Your Keywords?

When you are searching for books and articles on your topic, you will need to select some keywords. They are like the main ideas in a sentence. The words in your research question are perfect starting points. For example, What are the causes of global warming? But there are other words that might help you. Terms that mean the same thing ( synonyms) are also worthwhile keywords.  Global warming is sometimes called climate change and drug use among athletes is sometimes called doping.  Using different terms to locate information will give you greater results.