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A guide to accounting resources at CSUDH Library

Choosing a Topic

When considering ideas for a research topic, it can help to discuss your thoughts with librarians, your professors, and with other experts. In addition, try browsing encyclopedias focused on your field of study. When writing an argumentative paper, you can explore articles in controversial issue databases such as Opposing Viewpoints, linked below.

Explore the sites below for more ideas on choosing a research topic.

Formulating a Research Question

Once you have selected an initial topic, the next step is to develop a research question. To begin:

  • Write down what you already know or don't know about the topic.
  • Using the information you wrote down, develop questions you'd like to answer when doing your research.
    • Use probing questions such as why? how? what if? should?
    • Avoid questions that can be answered with yes or no. 

An example is provided below.


Example: Endangered Species Act

What do or don't I know about the Endangered Species Act (ESA)?

I know it's a law that protects animals, and their habitats, that are in danger of extinction. I believe the law only protects habitats that are within the U.S. boundaries. I know at one point bald eagles and grizzly bears were on the list, but I thought they had been removed. I know there has been a lot of controversy recently about adding polar bears to the list. I don't what it takes for an animal to be removed from the list and I don't know what the penalties are for violating this act.

Research Questions

  • What was the Endangered Species Act (ESA) designed to protect -- animals only or ecosystems too?
  • What animals/habitats outside of the United States boundaries are covered by the act?
  • What other countries have legislation to protect animals/habitats?
  • What animals are currently on the endangered species list?
  • How does an animal get added/removed from the list?
  • What penalties are imposed on those who violate the act?

Begin Topic Development

Develop a general or broad topic from your background reading

From your general topic and readings you can begin to develop a refined topic that will developed into a thesis statement or research question.

If your topic is too broad begin to narrow/refine it by adding an aspect of the topic, a time period, limit it to a location/geography, population, etc.

Below is an example of narrowing the topic: 


Narrow by Examples
aspects of the topic

law and legislation
moral and ethical aspects

time period

20th century
21st century
2000-2016 (a range of years)


United States (or another country)
Los Angeles


Teens or Juveniles
Hispanic Americans

Arrive at a researchable thesis or research question
Given your assigned question, how can you arrive at a researchable thesis statement that you can discuss in a well-argued paper?

  • What is the minimum number of pages expected for the assignment?
  • Is your thesis statement too broad?  Too narrow?



Developing Keywords (8 Minutes)
An interactive tutorial on developing keywords to search academic databases. It covers narrowing, broadening, and other search tips --- including practice with your own research topic. By the end, you'll be ready to search efficiently and effectively and have a printable certificate of completion.