ENGL 127 Research Writing: Social Sciences (Wilber)

The Podcast Project: For students enrolled in English 127 with Ari Wilber

Explore Topics

Explore Topic Ideas with Holman Library Current Issues Databases

Note: Remember to choose topics with a Social Science focus

In Opposing Viewpoints and other in Context databases, you can browse all Issues or browse by Category.

In CQ Researcher, click Browse Topics for general topic areas. Law and Justice is a good place to start for this class.

  • Under the starting broad topic, you can narrow it down by subtopic and then report.
  • CQ Reports date back to the 1920s. Old reports can still be useful for generating research ideas, but be sure to check the date before using in your essay. CQ archives are also useful for a historical perspective.

CQ Research Law and Justice

Browse the academic encyclopedia collection GVRL for good topic ideas

Strategy 1: 

Type in a broad idea, such as masculinity, intersectionality, family, or criminal justice and browse the list of titles and topics returned.

  • Select Subjects from the filters on the right and browse the list of related and subtopics. 
  • Open articles to explore possible ideas for your research project.
    • Notice the encyclopedia title the article is in. That may give you an indication of its focus.
    • Remember to keep a Social Science focus.
Strategy 2:

Type in a more focused search and browse the results for ideas. For ex: incarceration AND families OR children.

Strategy 3:

Click on Gale eBooks at the top of the database page. This takes you to the encyclopedia level. Limit to Social Science on the left and then browse titles and ideas there.

Click on images below to enlarge them.

Strategy 1:

GVRL - explore subtopics

Strategy 2:

GVRL-incarceration AND families OR children

Strategy 3: 

Social Sciences Subject Browse in GVRL

Journalism and Current Affairs Online


are full of researchable topics! Headlines can generate topics or you can dig deeper for an issue that interests you. You can read front pages from newspapers around the world at the Newseum website, read about local issues in the Seattle Times, or explore library news databases:

Sample Podcast Directories

Sample Criminal Legal System Podcasts

Holman Library logo

At the Start of your Research, Use Holman Library One Search to:
  • Look for ways to narrow and focus a broad starting idea
  • Generate topic ideas
  • Find Reference Sources you can use to learn about the basics on your topic

Explore Topic Ideas

Finding a "Good" Topic

Choosing a Topic:

Research is Inquiry

  • When you do a research project, you start with an idea or an interest.
  • With some research, you develop that initial idea or interest into a topic.
  • As you read and learn, that topic becomes more focused and defined.
  • At the end of your research, once you fully understand your topic, you develop a claim.
  • While you start your final paper with a claim, that claim is the last step of the research process.


  • Why do you want to write about this topic? Will it interest you for the quarter?
  • Complexity: Does the topic lead you to complex questions or can it be answered easily? Does it lead you deeper into the issue?
  • Research: Does this topic require you to dig deeper and look at various college-level sources, such as subject databases or peer-reviewed journals?

In-depth analysis:

  • Is your topic too broad for you to research it in depth? Would you be able to adequately discuss it within your page limit? For example: "The effect of economic recession on Americans" is too vast a topic.
  • Can you replace general or vague terms with more focused terms on your subject? To do so, read about your topic in general, and then as you learn more, narrow and deepen the scope of your discussion.

Does the topic fit the assignment?

  • What kind of genre are your writing in? Does your instructor expect a report, an analysis, an argument or another genre of writing?
  • For this class, the background essay and literature review are reports. You will be reading and synthesizing the research, issues, and conclusions others have written about your topic.
  • The final paper will require analysis. After you have become familiar with what others have written, you will evaluate what others have written and add to the conversation based on your informed research.

Topics to Avoid:

  • Avoid topics based on personal belief or opinion: the death penalty is good or bad.
  • Avoid topics that are simply factual and, that once answered, end the conversation: unemployment figures are at x.
  • Avoid topics that rely on unverifiable speculation: UFOs are real.
  • Be sure to read your assignment to see if your teacher excludes specific topics.