Exploring a Topic

Delving into a topic can be the most enjoyable and frustrating part of starting research. You will experience the initial thrills of inquiry and suspicion, which are fantastic, but those feelings can quickly turn into an equally strong sense of being overwhelmed with the scope of the task.

Before continuing on, gather the notes and thoughts you have been writing down and briefly review them.

Discovering information about a new topic, or diving deeper into a topic you are already familiar with, is often exhilarating. Just as every student discovers a topic in their own unique way, the process of beginning to explore a topic in more depth is up to individual preference. However, we highly recommend taking advantage of all of the resources and services that are available to you at the UO. Doing so will allow you to get the best breadth and depth of information.

Finally, we highly encourage you to actively take notes on the sources you have visited, websites you have discovered, and any ideas that come to mind. Nothing is worse than finding an interesting article and then spending an hour trying to find it again. It only takes a moment, and it will save a lot of time in the long run.

If You Know of a Topic You’re Interested In

Here are some places to start your search:

  • If you initially discovered your topic in a course reading, check the bibliography section to find other sources. Google the author to discover other articles and books they have written on the subject.
  • If you hear about a topic during a lecture, ask the instructor for more information at the end of class or visit them during their office hours.
  • Speak to a librarian. Tell them about the topic(s) you are interested in and ask for some introductory readings and online resources on the subject such as journals and blogs.
  • If you know of a subject that interests you, visit Wikipedia to do some general reading. Wikipedia is a good resource to get some basic information about the subject and find more sources. However, you should always be cautious when using Wikipedia and make sure to use it appropriately – it is good place to start, but not a valid source of information.

If You are Unsure of a Topic

  • Visit your major’s department website and go to their listing of faculty (look for the “faculty” or “people” heading) to see where their expertise lies and what research they are currently performing.
  • Spend some time looking at the subjects of their research and write down ones that sound interesting to you. They may even have their recent publications listed.
  • If you feel like you are able to narrow down your interests, go back to the section above and use the strategies outlined to explore the subject further.
  • Explore course offerings and enroll in a course that connects to your interests.
  • Attend events such as campus speakers, department seminars, performances, and community events.

Further Recommendations

Even if you think you know what subject you want to research, it is worthwhile to spend some time exploring that topic and other ones. As a result, you may solidify your original choice, refine it even further, or discover another topic that you find even more interesting.

Exploring potential topics is the fun part, the difficult part is making sense of all the information you have encountered and narrowing down your interests. More than likely you will want to get some advice and discuss your interests with someone else to help clarify your thoughts. The next section discusses this aspect in more detail.

Next – Getting Advice