Talking about the topic

Speech bubbles

Image by Jaja7 (File:Talk page green icon.png) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The other week I listened to a webinar where a librarian and a professor shared their collaboration.  Their conversation could start some useful conversations on research topic development.

Ariew and van Ingen (2014) began with the concept of an information need.  They described the dynamic between the language of the searcher’s question and the language of the scholarly literature.  Background resources (discovery tools, reference works, subject experts) are undervalued in mediating between the two.

Equally underrated is practice with narrowing and expanding topics.  As with many things this skill develops with practice.

Not only did Ariew and van Ingen (2014) have audience members share topic development strategies (such as encouraging the students to spend more time pre-searching), they modeled one of their own, role playing.  Then they continued with a discussion of how they assess research topics.  You can read about that part of the talk next week.


Ariew, A., & van Ingen, S. (2014, October 22). Moving from impossible to manageable: Helping Students manage and focus research topics [Archived presentation]. Retrieved from