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Research 411: Topics & Questions

Use this guide to start and organize a research assignment

Talk to Your Reference Librarians

Need research help? Having trouble finding, identifying or evaluating library resources? That is what your CSM librarians are here to do.  

La Plata 301-934-7626 Leonardtown 240-725-5360 Prince Frederick 443-550-6061

Finding a Topic

These library databases and websites present information on current issues or topics which can be useful when forming your own research topic. 

Define a topic

Your topic must be manageable. Avoid choosing a topic that is too broad or too narrow. If it is too broad, you will be overwhelmed with too much information. If it is too narrow, specialized, new, or limited in appeal, you may not find enough information.

Topic Focus


Too broad (too much information)

the environment

Too narrow (not enough information)

the effects of burn restrictions on air quality in Storrs in 2003

Just right (manageable amount of information)

the effects of federal regulations on air quality in major US cities


Use concepts—time, population, place and viewpoint—to create manageable topics for research.

Time: is there a specific time period you want to cover?

Population: is there a segment of the population that could be studied?

Place: is there a place you want to focus on?

Viewpoint: is there an aspect of your topic that interests you?

Research Questions