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Selecting a Research Topic: Choose the Right One for You! (Library Workshop)

Check Your Professor's Assignment Requirements for Your Research Paper

Louise Lee, academic librarian at Butte College Library, has great advice (and an entire "Research Paper guide") to share: She writes:

"Before you start browsing for ideas, check the assignment requirements carefully to make sure your topic satisfies your instructor's requirements.

  • Topic criteria - Current or historical? Any geographic restriction (such as within U.S., local)?  Related to a specific group (such as teenagers, college students, women)?

  • Types of assignment - Informative, argumentative, or persuasive? A paper or a presentation? Do you need to offer your own opinions?

  • Length of your paper - How many pages? How long is the presentation?

  • Types of sources - Some instructors require students to use scholarly journals and/or sources published within a certain period, etc.

  • Other - Due date, citation style, etc.

All these will affect your choice of topic. For example, if your instructor wants you to write a 10-page argumentative paper related to a historical event in the United States, choose a historical event that is controversial or has aroused debates. Make sure it happened in the United States, and that there is enough information for you to spread it out into 10 pages" (Lee, 2021).


Here at the Rider University Libraries, you can use some of our excellent pro-con library databases to explore and analyze hot topics in business, crime, culture, education, energy, government, health, race, and so much more--see our "Search for Topics & Background Info" tab on the left to get started.