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Guide to the Research Process: 1a. Select a Topic

This guide provides an introduction to the skills needed to conduct research.


Choose a topic that interests you and will hold your attention. If you do, the research will be more enjoyable!

The Research Assignment

Before selecting a topic or starting your research, make sure you understand your assignment and its requirements. Consider the following:

  • Type --           What kind of paper are you being asked to write? (review, essay, sermon, research paper, case studies)
  • Length --       How many words are required?
  • Currency --    Do you need current or historical information?
  • Level --          Do you need scholarly/professional or popular information?
  • Resources --  Do you have to cite a specific number of resources?
  • Date Due --    When is the paper due?


Topic Ideas

Where to Start:

  • Begin to Brainstorm Ideas
  • Talk with classmates
  • Ask good questions
  • Narrow your topic to one aspect that you can explore in a clear and focused manner
  • Begin to balance the amount of information you need with the length of the assignment
  • Consult sources of background information like general and subject specific encyclopedias, handbooks, and textbooks to get a working knowledge of the subject by investigating authoritative reference books in the subject area.  Here are some examples:

             *Anchor Bible Dictionary

           *New Westminster Dictionary of Church History

           *A Dictionary of Pastoral Care

           *Encyclopedia of Reformed Faith

           *Encyclopedia of Christianity

           *Encyclopedia of Early Church

           *A Handbook of Theological Terms