Skip to Main Content

Research Help

Picking a Paper Topic

Deciding on a paper topic that interests you can sometimes be challenging.  Here are some ideas to help you find an appropriate research topic:

1) Pick a topic from a newspaper or magazine article;

2) Pick a topic from a news story you saw on television, heard on the radio, or read online; 

3) Find a topic in an online resource, such as:

4) Take a look at the following website for some good ideas:

5) Look through some reference sources, either in print in the library or online.

Reference Sources

Reference sources are available in general or subject specifics contexts and in print or online formats. You need to evaluate each source and determine which are helpful to you and appropriate for you to use.


  • Encyclopedias
  • Dictionaries
  • Almanacs
  • Glossaries
  • Handbooks
  • Atlases
  • Bibliographies
  • Indexes

Reference materials are good starting points for research projects because they can provide:

  • background or introductory information on a topic
  • terminology or additional keywords to use in further searches
  • a bibliography listing other materials on a topic

Thinking of Your Research Question in Terms of Keywords

Pull out the most important aspects of your research question 

  • Who
  • What
  • Where

Use different keywords / synonyms / alternate terms

Brainstorm a list or create a word web

Use a thesaurus to help you think of alternate words


Have social media sites led to an increase in bullying among young adults? 

  • Social Media
  • Bullying
  • Young Adults

Social Media: social network, social platform

Bullying: tormenting, hectoring, harassing

Young Adults: adolescent, juvenile, teenager, emerging adult  

Research Study

Parts of a Research Study


Navigating a Research Study

1. Question(s) the researcher is trying to answer

2. Reasons why it is important to answer the question(s)

3. Literature Review that explains what is already understood or has already been studied on the topic

4. Research Method used in this study

5. Results of this study

6. Conclusions that can be made based on this study

7. Limitation(s) of this study

8. Recommendation of areas for additional study

9. References of works consulted for this study

Even after a thorough search, you may not be able to find many sources on your specific topic.  Possibly, your exact topic has not yet been studied.  In that case, you can use other studies related to your topic to help in designing your study.

Developing a Research Question (Northern Kentucky University)

For questions or feedback contact the McQuade Library
Call us: 978-837-5177 | Text us:  978-228-2275 | Email us: