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Online Programs: 3. Topic Selection

Topic Research - Be Creative and Flexible!

Effective information searches are usually a group of searches.  No keyword search combination is the "correct" one; all relevant key word search combinations can contribute to your project.  Be flexible and creative.  Add to your list of  keywords as you explore several databases and search engines.


Topic:  Winter Olympics and US loss of competitor Lindsey Vonn

Beginning searches:  Lindsey Vonn;             Winter Olympics AND Russia;                    Olympics AND 2014

More Specific:  Winter Olympics AND 2014 AND ski racing;   Winter Olympics AND Sochi AND Lindsey Vonn;   Olympics AND ski racing AND United States

Broader:  Athletics;               Olympics and winter;                 Olympics and women AND winter sports;                  Winter Olympics AND United States


Topic:  Polar Vortex:  How often has the US Midwest experienced such cold temperatures related to the Polar Vortex?

Beginning searches:  polar vortex AND Midwest

More Specific:  polar vortex AND OHIO; polar vortex AND history AND United States; Northern Hemisphere Stratospheric Polar Vortex AND Midwest [term obtained from a previous search];  tropospheric circulation AND United States and history; arctic polar vortex AND Midwest

Broader:  meteorology; winds AND weather; freezing air AND North Pole; freezing air AND Northern Hemisphere


For any class project that requires information gathering, begin to grow your search term list.   Apply your list to a variety of search engines and article/resource databases. 

My Topic: _______________________________________________

Beginning search terms for my topic: ______________________________________________________________

Other more specific keywords, phrases, and word combinations: ________________________________________


Broader ways to search my topic:  relevant fields, keywords, phrases, and word combinations: _________________


Topic Selection - Major Key to Success!


  • Download and save the .pdf document linked below. 
  • Review the process steps toward selecting and shaping your topic. 

Tip: A bit of time spent shaping/narrowing your topic will pay big dividends. You will work with a more manageable and appealing topic in a clear research path. Your focussed topic will have more appeal to your readers.

(15 min.) What to do?  Please download the following document and save/read or print/read for understanding.

 Visualize how your topic words will work together in an online search.  See the impact of using AND, OR, NOT in your catalog or databases searches.  The bright colors in each display show how topic words will be combined in a search and what coverage results you can expect in database trolling.

(1 min.) What to do:  Open the "machine" and see how changing the connecting term changes the result potential. 

  Rockwell Schrock's The Boolean Machine

Optional Hint: Sample Research Topics

Need help thinking of a general research topic?  Here is a document listing 20 potential research topic areas: 

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