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Chemistry: 1. Topic Development

Topic Development

You can save yourself hours of frustration by taking the time to develop and focus your topic. 

Selecting a topic

  • If permitted, choose a topic that interests you.
  • Brainstorm ideas.  Try creating a concept map to develop a topic.
  • Discuss ideas with your classmates, TAs or professors. 
  • Look in newspapers and journals for ideas.
  • Do some background reading in general or subject specific encyclopedias or other reference books to get an overview of a topic.
    • Some chemistry specific reference books are listed here.
  • Review articles are are also good resources for background information.  Review articles are published in many journals, but there are some journals in which all the articles are reviews. These journals are usually discipline specific.  Annual Reviews publishes many of these journals in several chemistry fields.
  • Don't forget to take notes and record information about interesting resources you find while exploring a topic.
  • Be sure the topic meets the requirements of the assignment.

Narrowing a topic

  • Think about specific aspects that interest you.
  • Consider different viewpoints.
  • Think about specific time periods, population groups (e.g. gender, age, culture), and geographic areas.
  • Think about Who, What, When, Where and Why?


Start early to determine if the scope of a topic is manageable in the time you have to complete your assignment and so that you know if there are available resources on the topic.