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The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Information and Computer Sciences

Find a Topic

Not sure where to start? Try these tips:

  • Start where you are. Think about topics that might be of interest to you. What do you already know? What would you like to know? What class papers or discussion caught your attention? Skim over your reading list or textbook for more ideas.
  • Seach for relevant current events. Twitter, ScienceDaily's Computers and Math section, and popular science magazines, such as WIRED or Ars Technica, often cover recent events in the field. Do some searching and you're bound to find some ideas!
  • Look for articles in your area of interest. See the short list below for some suggestions.

Use the databases below to search for overview articles and proceedings on current computer science topics:

Gather Background Information

Gather background information on your topic to help you:

  • Focus your topic
  • Hone your search
  • Define specific terms and phrases
  • Identify the big players or experts in the field

Encyclopedias, Biographies, or Handbooks are all excellent places to find more background information. 

Refine Your Topic

Writing your research question/thesis:

Your topic of interest is typically phrased as a one sentence statement at the beginning of your project. This statement (or thesis) should be specific. It will also need to cover what you are discussing in your paper and should be supported by the evidence you present.

Ask yourself:

  • Who? Who is the specific person or group you would like to focus on? Who is this topic important to?
  • What? What part of your topic are you specifically interested in?
  • When? What time period is of interest to you?
  • Where? Where would you like to focus your research? What area or region is most interesting?
  • Why? Why do you think this is an important or interesting topic?

It's okay if your thesis statement changes as you write! Research is an iterative process, so you may go through a few thesis statements before you finish your project.

If you feel lost, contact a librarian or your instructor -- they're able to help you think about your topic and focus it as necessary.