Student Research Productivity Workshops

Research doesn't have to be overwhelming! Learn how to increase your productivity and improve your coursework. Drop in, no need to RSVP.

Need Research Help?

Search our FAQ for answers to the most common library questions. Or ask a new question and receive an answer via email.

Find Subject Specific Help

Resources for Background Information

Selecting a Topic

Deciding on a topic can be one of the toughest parts of writing a research paper. The resources on this page can help start the brainstorming process. You can also look for background information in the books or article databases mentioned below.

Ask Yourself .... 

Ask yourself the following questions about your topic to make sure you've picked a topic that will keep both yourself and your audience (those reading your paper) engaged. If you can answer yes to all the questions, you're ready to start gathering sources. Source

  • Am I interested in the topic?
  • Will I enjoy researching this topic?
  • Will I enjoy talking about this topic and sharing my information with my readers?
  • Will my readers be interested in my topic?
  • Am I passionate about this topic?

You can also use the resources below to browse for topics.

Google Web Search
Search Vanderbilt University Libraries Catalog

Concept Mapping

Concept mapping, or mind mapping, is a great way to plan your research. Use it to brainstorm keywords, and to keep track of the databases you've tried or want to search. Most online tools allow maps to be saved or emailed. The map below is an example template for a research paper.