Skip to Main Content

Communication Research Guide

Need Help with an Idea?

Choose a topic that interests you. The following questions may help get you started:

  • Do you have a strong opinion on a current social or political controversy?
  • Did you read or see a news story that has stimulated your interest or left you wanting to know more?
  • Do you have a personal issue, problem, or interest that you would like to know more about?
  • Is there an aspect of a class that your are interested in learning more about?

Develop Your Research Topic

Picking a topic is more complex than you might think. Developing a good research question can sometimes be the most difficult part of the research process.

If you are unfamiliar with your potential topic, you may need to research background information before you can develop a strong research question. Background information can help you identify key names, dates, events, issues, concepts, and terms associated with the topic. 

Some good sources to find background information:

  • Your textbook or class readings
  • Dictionaries and encyclopedias
  • Credible websites
  • Library databases

Here are a few sources we suggest you explore.

Search Background Information

Sometimes a topic that seems like the right size can seem way too big after you’ve learned a little more about it. When this happens, you need to narrow the focus of your topic.

Some of the ways you can limit your topic are by:

  • Who - population or group
  • What - discipline or focus
  • Where - geographic location
  • When - time period or era
  • Why - why is the topic important?
Here's an example of narrowing a topic by population and focus:
Broad Topic: effects of using social media
Narrow Topic: the negative effects of social media on body image of teenagers

(adapted from U of Michigan - Finding and Exploring Your Topic)

Sometimes you will find that your topic is too narrow, and there is not enough published on your topic. When this happens, you can try to broaden your topic. There are a couple of strategies you can try when broadening your topic. 

One strategy is to choose less specific terms for your search:

  • Standardized Tests instead of SATs
  • Performance-Enhancing Drugs instead of Anabolic Steroids

Another strategy is to broaden your topic by changing or removing limits from your topic:

  • Who - population or group 
  • What - discipline or focus
  • Where - geographic location
  • When - time period or era 
Here's an example of making a narrow topic more broad:
Narrow Topic: Does watching cartoons cause violent behaviors in children under the age of five?
Broader Topic: What are the negative effects of television viewing on children and adolescents?

(adapted from U of Michigan - Finding and Exploring Your Topic)