Topic Strategy

How to refine topics and identify keywords for searching.

Choosing a Topic

One of the hardest parts of writing a research essay is coming up with a topic. It is important to choose a topic that is meaningful to you. Try these sources for ideas:

  • Access World News - scroll down the page to see Suggested Topics and Special Reports.
  • Films on Demand - browse the home page for ideas, easily watch segments of longer works
  • Points of View Reference Center - essays and resources covering multiple sides of current issues

Links to these available from the Databases - A-Z List on your campus access page.


Once you have your main topic, it can help to brainstorm the different aspects of the topic. Brainstorming is an open, free flow of discussion on a topic without judging, censoring or criticizing. An idea that at first seems ridiculous or silly may in fact be an excellent research topic after it has been identified, discussed and refined.

Mind Map, showing terms related to each other

Some students like to use Bubbl to help create concept maps.

Visuwords diagram, showing relationships between words

Visuwords can help you look at the relationships between words.

Dictionary of Literary Biography Topic Finder

Search the Dictionary of Literary Biography (UH Hilo access / Hawaiʻi CC access) and use then select Topic Finder to see how literary topics relate to each other:

Screenshot showing results for a basic search for the term 'Shakespeare'