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PSYC 2305 - Introduction to Research Methods in Psychology

A resource guide for Psychology Research Methods class

Develop a Topic

Outline of a gear inside of a shining light bulbThis page will help you through the process of taking a rough research topic idea and developing it into a well-scoped research question for your assignment. Taking the time to develop a well thought out topic helps make the research process a little easier.

Each section will cover one of the basic steps to developing a topic:

  1. Select a topic
  2. Develop your topic
  3. Refine your topic

Keep in mind that while there are steps to follow, this is not necessarily a linear process. You might have to repeat steps a few times and go back and forth as you figure out a topic that works for you.

Step 1: Select a Topic

The first part of the process is to pick an initial topic that interests you--a curious research is the best kind! Carefully review your assignment to make sure your topic is appropriate and fits the scope of the assignment. It's ok if your topic is broad at first. Watch the following video for more guidance on this process.

Video Transcript

Video adapted from North Carolina State University Libraries’ Picking Your Topic IS Research video

Step 2: Develop Your Topic

After selecting a broad topic, develop it further through brainstorming: What do you already know about the topic? What do you want to know more about? What specific aspects of the topic are you interested in? Use the tools below to help guide your thinking. 

Step 3: Refine Your Topic

As you further develop your topic, you will start to refine it as you learn more background information. Background information is an important part of developing your topic because it helps you better understand your topic and its context, giving you basic facts and history. Sources such as encyclopedias, reports, or popular magazines can provide basic overviews and background information. These might not be sources you end up citing in a literature review or final paper, but they will help you understand the topic better so that you can find the appropriate resources.

Not sure where to start? Try some of these search tools: 

Not sure when to use Wikipedia? Check out this tutorial: