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A Guide to Library Research

Step-by-step guide with tutorials on the basics of research. Learn about library and online resources.

Topic Selection

Choosing a topic can be difficult. It’s best to choose a topic that interests you and is within the scope of your assignment’s guidelines. Once you have an idea in mind, you need to do some preliminary research or pre-research to find background information. Google and Wikipedia are great tools for fact finding. The library also has three databases to help.

Also, make sure your topic isn't too broad. Information on the Black Lives Matter movement is extensive and could easily fill a book, so focus on a smaller subtopic. Simple subtopics address the “who, what, where, when, or how” of an issue. Examples:

  • the beginning of the movement
  • the use of excessive police force
  • the criticism of BLM

Finally, be flexible with your ideas or intent. Even though you have a topic that interests you, it does not mean that in-depth information has been written about it. If that is the case, slightly shift the focus of your topic based on the availability of resources.


Watch the following videos about ways to develop your topic.

Developing a Topic Video from the Oregon School Library Information System (4:19)

Library Databases to Help with Topic Selection

Opposing Viewpoints, Issues & Controversies, and CQ Researcher provide excellent background information as well as lists of suggested issues to browse. If you’re writing an argument essay, these e-resources allow you to explore various viewpoints on current topics or hot button issues.

  • Opposing Viewpoints in Context: Viewpoints (pros/cons), topic overviews, full-text articles, and more.
    • Video on how to use Opposing ViewPoints to find a topic (runtime 1:15)
    • Video on how to narrow your topic using Opposing ViewPoints (runtime 1:13)
  • Issues & Controversies: Extensive, objective, and comprehensive coverage of today's issues.
    • Video on how to use Issues & Controversies (runtime 5:42)
  • CQ Researcher: Original, comprehensive reporting and analysis on issues shaping our world.
    • ​​​​​​Video on how to use CQ Researcher (runtime 2:28)
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