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English 201 Research in the Disciplines: Selecting a Topic


When you are assigned to a write a paper and have to choose the topic, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by ideas or completely at a loss.  Thankfully, the Rutgers Libraries provide resources to help you choose and narrow your research topic.

The resources on this page will assist you in gathering background information and refining your topic.

  • Review "Background Information" to identify a potential topic of interest.
  • Complete the tutorial, "Choosing a Topic."
  • Watch the video, "How to Narrow Your Topic."
  • Complete the "Search Term Development" worksheet.

Background Information

The following sources are useful  to identify topics, overviews, background information, concepts, theories, ideas, and key references:

Access World News

  • Covers newspapers and news wires across the world.

CQ Researcher

  • Full-text, weekly topical reports.
  • Focuses on topics considered newsworthy or issues of broad interest to the general public.


  • Covers newspapers; magazines; trade journals; newsletters; and television and radio transcripts focusing on business.

Gale Virtual Reference Library  

  • Includes topical overviews; essays; book chapters; primary documents; specialized encyclopedia articles; and other sources. 

Sage eReference Encyclopedias  

  • Includes specialized encyclopedia articles written by experts in the respective topical areas.
  • Good source for background information; overviews; references; terms; and ideas for topics.

Subject Encyclopedias

  • Access one of many subject encyclopedias available through Rutgers University Libraries.

Search Term Development

Using the attached "Search Term Development" worksheet:

  1. Review the example provided (page 1)
  2. Develop your own topic using your paper topic and the blank page (page 2)

Tutorial: Choosing a Topic

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