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High school research at UMW

A guide to Simpson Library for high school students

Finding a topic

Good topics are out there, but it takes work to find them.

To find a good research topic, follow this strategy:

  1. Look for inspiration by reading overviews.
    • The best place to find overviews & summaries is in encyclopedias. For example, you could browse Wikipedia, or you could browse the encyclopedias in the library.
    • The advantage of encyclopedia articles is that they are quick and easy to read. You can learn about many possible topics in just a short time.
    • Remember that overviews are simplified sources, written at a beginner level. They're useful for getting started, but they should not be cited in your paper.
  2. When you find an interesting topic, do some exploratory research to determine whether there are enough citable sources on this topic.
    • Sometimes you'll see sources cited at the bottom of the encyclopedia article. That's a good start, but you'll need to see if there are more sources available.
  3. Depending on how the exploratory research goes, you might decide to keep the topic, or to shift to a related topic, or to start over by reading more overviews. Any of these three options is okay!


This video from North Carolina State University gives a detailed breakdown of how to find a good topic: