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Finding A Research Topic: Home


Start with your assignment; what is your professor asking for?

  •  Is this supposed to be an informative paper or a persuasive paper? 
  • Are you supposed to review a scholarly article? 
  • Are you required to use library resources? 

Follow all of your professor’s instructions. Ask questions if you don’t understand something like what a “scholarly, peer-reviewed” article is.


Tips on choosing a topic are part of our Research Smart Toolkit.

CQ Researcher has a “browse by topic” feature that shows you current, controversial and researchable issues.

In the database Issues and Controversies, click on the “Access all topics” link to see an A-to-Z list of potential topics.


Discuss potential topics with your instructor. Often a professor will give a broad topic and want you to write a paper about a specific aspect of that topic. For instance, “write a review of an article on a recent study in microbiology.” Microbiology is a broad topic. You would review a study done in a particular area, such as e coli bacteria or Alzheimer’s research. If you have to write about some aspect of the Reformation, pick a subtopic such as the Anabaptists, or Martin Luther, or the Gutenberg Bible.

Our Library Reference and Information Desk can help. Their number is 434-592-3362. You can also email for more assistance.



Realize that not all topics are supported by a particular type of resource.

  • You will not find an entire book on something that happened recently. 
  • You might not find a current journal article on a particular person or something that happened long ago in history; you might need to look in books. 
  • Scholarly articles are written by academic scholars and usually are either theoretical or philosophical (discussing an idea) or involve original research or a study. So there are topics that don’t have scholarly, peer-reviewed articles written about them.


Need to talk to a Librarian about your specific topic?

Choose from our Liaison Librarians. Each one is specially skilled in a different subject so that they can provide you with the best quality assistance possible.