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Choose a Topic: sub-module 1 of 5 of how to research

This module explains how to choose a research topic that fits within the bounds of your assignment and is neither too broad nor too narrow.



  • Start with the assignment.Take a look at your assignment. Does it provide you with topic options, or can you select your own?
  • Not too broad, not too narrow.Do some background research and identify a topic angle. Keep in mind: if you are getting too many results, your topic may be too broad. If you are not getting enough results, your topic may be too narrow.
  • Topic examples.Too broad: Why do people drive electric cars?
    Too narrow: How many Ontario drivers prefer electric cars over other types of cars because they like how they look?
    Just right: Why do some Canadians choose to purchase electric cars?


  • Form a research strategy.The type of information you need to find will dictate where you need to search. Websites or library resources? Think about what you need to find and where it will be located.

Video: Defining a Research Question & Background Research

Defining a Research Question and Background Research Video Transcript - RTF

Video: Choosing Keywords and Brainstorming Synonyms

Choosing Keywords & Brainstorming Synonyms Video Transcript - RTF

The Art of Keywords

The words you choose for your search will have an impact on the results you find. There are many different ways of describing the same topic. Doing the same search multiple times with a variety of terms will yield the most complete results.

Take a moment to learn more about Keywords, Synonyms and Related Terms.

Keywords are words that hold the essence, or the key idea, of what you are trying to find. Using relevant keywords in your search will lead you to better information. You can identify the first keywords from the topic itself.

Topic example: Why do some Canadians choose to purchase electric cars?

Keywords: reasons, Canadians, purchase, electric cars

Synonyms are words that have the same, or similar meaning as the main keywords. Synonyms and keywords are interchangeable, which means that the meaning of your search will remain the same.

Here are a few synonyms for the topic: Why do some Canadians choose to purchase electric cars?

reasons: decisions

Canadians: Canadian people, Canadian drivers

purchase: buy, acquire

electric cars: hybrid vehicles, electric vehicles, hybrid cars

Related terms are words that generally mean the same thing as the main keywords. For example: tablet - device, car - vehicle, pop - carbonated drink. While related terms don’t mean exactly the same thing as the words they are replacing, they are an excellent tool for broadening the scope of your search.

Here are a few related terms for the topic: Why do some Canadians choose to purchase electric cars?

reasons: incentives, preferences

Canadians: Ontario drivers, drivers, motor vehicle operators

purchase: lease, rent

electric cars: driverless cars, environmentally friendly vehicles