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Syracuse University Libraries

Research Process: Getting Started: A. Define Your Topic

A guide to assist students in conducting research using the wide variety of information sources available to them.

Define Your Topic

The first step in defining your research topic is to review your assignment. Ask yourself:

  • Are there any guidelines I need to follow (as outlined by the instructor)?
  • What are some of the current trends or issues in this area?

Then, ask yourself some questions about the topic.

Ask Questions

Here are some questions related to the topic, time management:


Research topic:
college students and time management


Refine your topic by asking the following questions:


  • Who? college students
  • What (main subject of your topic)?  I want to know how college students organize their time.
  • Where?  The United States
  • When?  Within the last ten years
  • Any other details? I am interested in students from small colleges.



You may find it helpful to do some preliminary searching in order to find out what information exists on a given topic. This could lead you in a direction you may not have thought of originally. Ask a librarian for help in getting started.