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Information Skills Toolbox

Determining your topic

The first step in the information search process is an important one. During this initiation phase, you recognise your need for information and you start determining your topic by brainstorming about it.

Think about in which context you are searching for information. Do you need information for an assignment, a project or a thesis? For which target group will you be doing research? Are you searching for facts or different views and opinions? The context affects the type of information sources you need.

During the initiation phase you examine what you want to know about your topic, learn which professional terms to use and start asking specific questions about your topic. You can do so by:

  • asking lecturers/experts
  • consulting encyclopedia
  • searching the internet, using engines, such as Google and Bing
  • search library resources (catalogues, professional magazines and databases) generally

Defining a (re)search question

Writing a (re)search question is very helpful for defining the scope of your topic. You can narrow your topic by including one or more of these criteria in your question:

  • geography (The Netherlands, North America, other?)
  • time frame (last month, this year, last 5 years, anytime?)
  • discipline (leisure, logistics, media, tourism, other?)
  • population group (age, gender, culture, other?)

The 5W's might help you defining a good (re)search question:

5 W’s:

Who: target group, stakeholders?

What: what is going on? what is the problem?

Where: country, region, place?

When: time periode?

Why: what is purpose, what do you want to achieve?

What makes a good research topic?