Skip to Main Content
University of Texas University of Texas Libraries

OnRamps History: For Instructors

A guide for OnRamps History Instructors on UT Austin Libraries access, information literacy and pedagogical resources.

Starting Research

Choosing a topic

Helping students choose and develop a topic is important because it prevents future research frustrations. You'll find that students often choose topics that are:

  • Too broad (ex: gun control in Texas)
  • Too specific or obscure (i.e. something for which there is little written, such as, "is mixed martial arts an art form?")
  • Have a markedly unpopular opposing viewpoint not conducive to argument-based research (i.e., there is a lot written about why dog fighting is bad, but nothing written about why it is ok)

It's not a good idea to choose a topic 'out of the blue' - teach your students to start broad in research inquiries and learn about what people are arguing about. Encourage them to read encyclopedia or news articles and to ask themselves: 

  • What are issues related to my broad issue? (ex. gun control in Texas - second amendment - NRA - campus shootings)
  • Who cares about my topic? Who are the stakeholders?
  • What are the stakeholders arguing about? Why do they care? Why are they invested in this issue?

As they delve deeper into their topics, encourage students to use background information to identify:

  • important events, dates, laws or legislation or court cases in their topics
  • bibliographies and works cited - students often don't know to 'follow the conversation'

Finding Background Info

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 Generic License.