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Information Literacy, Level Two

1. Brainstorm possible topics

step 1 identify topics

Choosing a topic is the first, and often the most difficult, phase of the research project.

  • See if you can choose a topic that relates to your personal or career interests, or something you care strongly about
  • Talk with your classmates and professor
  • Look at encyclopedias or dictionaries to become familiar with the topic and topic-specific vocabulary
  • Review class readings and your class notes
  • Browse the shelves for books or magazines on your subject
  • Create a concept map

2. Review assignment requirements

step 2 review assignment

Ask yourself and make sure you can answer:

  • What kind of assignment is it5-minute oral presentation, 10-page paper, 50-page paper?
  • How much information do you need? What do you already know?
  • Does the information need to be current or historical?
  • What types of publications do you want to readnewspaper articles, books, journal articles, trade publications?
  • What formats do you need visual, audio, printed, electronic?
  • Is point of view an issue? Do you need opinions?
  • When is it due and how much time do you have?
  • Which citation style should you use?
  • How many sources do you need?
  • Who is your audience?

3. List keywords to define your topic

step 3 list keywords



  • A keyword is a term that conveys the principle concept of your topic the more complicated the topic is, the more keywords you may need
  • State your research topic as a question or a thesis statement
  • Start your list of keywords using the words in the question/statement

For example, for the question: Would an assault weapons ban reduce gun violence in America?

Sample keywords are: assault weapons, gun violence, America

  • Think about the significant terms, concepts and words that describe your topicthese ideas are the key to searching for information in library catalogs, online databases and other resources.
  • If the words you chose aren't working, try synonyms. 

For example, for the question: How has global warming impacted climate change?

Sample keywords are: global warming, climate change

Synonyms are: Earth's temperature, Earth's atmosphere, environmental change, environmental crisis, greenhouse gases

4. Gather background information on your topic

step 4 gather background



See how to build a concept map and generate keywords

This video from Douglas College Library is a great introduction to concept mapping. The video also shows how concept maps can help you refine your topic and start building your keywords for searching library resources.

Keyword Tool: Credo Mind Maps

Our Credo Reference database has a mind map tool that might help you brainstorm topic ideas.  On the Credo Reference homepage, enter a word or phrase related to a topic of interest into the search box and run your search.  On the right, you'll see a Mind Map for your topic, which can give you suggestions for related concepts and topics.  You can click any of the words or phrases on the map, and see a new map about that concept.


Mind map for social work


Keyword Tool: Credo Topic Pages

Our Credo Reference database also has a section called Topic Pages. Enter a term in the Quick Find box to see if a topic page exists for your subject.

Usually major events, movements, and people have topic pages. Topic pages list out other related terms and topics for your subject, with links to relevant articles.  In the Search Other Sites box, you can click on other databases and automatically run searches in them for articles on your topic.