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Loyola University Chicago Libraries

UCWR Guide for Faculty

Topic Development Activity

  • You will cover this activity and/or the search tools activity with the class prior to the librarian working with the class on strategic searching.
  • Time expected to complete: 20-30 minutes
  • Materials included: A Topic Development video and slides created by librarians that models the process for developing a research topic and suggested activities give students an opportunity to discuss and explore their own potential research topics. 
  • Purpose: The purpose of this video and activity is to help students think about how to choose a topic, articulate why they are interested in the topic, develop a research question, and brainstorm keywords.
  • Student Learning Outcome: Students will articulate a research topic (a how or why question without a yes or no answer) and develop keywords to describe that topic.
  • Timing: Students should be familiar with the requirements and details of the researched argument assignment and have watched the topic development video.

Asynchronous Online Options

1. Set up a discussion or forum in Sakai.

  • Embed the video and slides into the discussion and ask students to view.
  • Then ask students to share:
    • their research topic ideas, why they care about the topic(s), what research questions they are interested in answering, and 3-5 keywords that describe their topic(s).
    • Ask other students to provide feedback on the topics including: other keywords, potential research tangents, interesting sources they have discovered on the topic(s), etc.

2. You can copy this spreadsheet and have students input their answers. This way everyone can see the topic ideas and provide feedback. This also gives students the opportunity to see how their topic has evolved through the research process.

In-Class Options

1. Take time during class to ask students to break into groups of two or three and do the following:

  • Take one to two minutes each to tell the group about the topic(s) you are considering:
    • Tell the group why you care about the topic and why it is important to you
    • Explain how you arrived at the topic
    • Tell them what kinds of research questions and issues you are interested in exploring / what questions you have about the topic that are:
      • Open-ended
      • Complex
      • Arguable
    • Tell the group what keywords come to mind
    • Ask group members for their perspectives on the topic and suggestions for more keywords Go through this process until everyone in your group has had the chance to share a topic and receive feedback.
  • After each student in every group has shared their topic, ask for volunteers to share their topics why they are interested in the topic, and what keywords they developed in their groups
  • Did any students run into challenges? What were they? 

2. Have each student go to the library database Opposing Viewpoints 

  • Under browse issues, have students identify an issue that relates to their topics
    • If students are unsure about their topics, 
  • Open the issue in o

Wrap Up

  • Provide feedback on research topic ideas through whatever platform you used. 
  • Remind students that easy is boring and to choose a topic that they care about! 
  • Remind the students that a librarian will be visiting the class to work on strategic searching.
  • Encourage the students to use the Ask a Librarian Chat or to reach out to their librarian for additional help!