If you are having trouble coming up with a topic, try the resources built into the following databases and websites.  They give you topics and ideas that can help you formulate a thesis.

  • Explora High School Database: You are automatically logged in at school.  Off campus, you will need a username and password available from your librarians.
  • Points of View Reference Center: Choose Browse Topics.  This is a WRL database that WJCC students have access to without a library card. When prompted to enter a library barcode use wjcc and your student id, ex. wjcc10001056.
  • Provides as list of current social issues.
  • Room for Debate from the New York Times.

Background Knowledge

Background information includes basic information on a research topic such as important terms and concepts, relevant names of people or places, and dates of specific events. It helps you get an overview of your topic, discover keywords for searching databases and identify a narrower, more focused aspect of your topic on which to focus.

General Google searches, even Wikipedia can help you become more familiar with the topic.  You can use them to discover definitions, general trends, subtopics, and other items of interest about the subject you are interested in. Once this information is gathered, you can use it conduct more effective research.

Keyword Searching

A broad list of key words will help yield better results.  When you have a topic idea underline the key words and add synonyms, make plural or acronyms.

Example: steroid abuse is reaching epidemic proportions among high school athletes.

Come up with more narrow, broader and related terms;

Term: Steroid
Narrower Term: anabolic steroid
Broader Term: drugs

Term: Athlete
Narrower term: body builder; football player
Broader term: sports

Term: epidemic
Related Term: statistics

Term: High School
Related Term: young adult; adolescent; teenager


Take the four question review quiz by going to and enter Room Library20.

From Topic to Research Question

Narrowing a Topic:  Let’s take a broad topic like “cyberbullying.” The question “How is cyberbullying bad for kids” is far too broad.  Do a quick search on Explora and look at the results to see what more narrow topics and specific directions research might take.  What are some narrower topics involving cyberbullying?

Take those narrower topics and start asking Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How questions.

Who?  Middle school students; high school, males, females, transgender…

What? Texting, social media, video…

When? During school, late at night, due to an event…

Where? School, college, private schools, public schools, suburbs, city…

Why? Revenge, popularity…

How?  Hacking passwords, stealing phones….

Broadening a Topic: A student chooses as their research question, “Is teen pregnancy in rural areas higher than in cities with more than 100,000 people under the age of 17?”

Try to search for that topic on Explora.  What results to do you find?  Now enter “teen pregnancy” only.  What broader topics on this subject do you find?

Review: Use this Kahoot Challenge to review at your own speed