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OMDE 601: Foundations of Distance Education & E-learning

A Library Subject Guide

Topic Development Tips

The first step in the research process is to have a topic.  The steps presented on this page will help you learn to develop and narrow a topic.

Background reading

It is often helpful to the research process to do some background reading on your topic. This will help you understand your topic better, help you identify specific aspects of the topic that you'd like to investigate further, and provide you with some key ideas, terminology, and dates necessary to help you select effective keywords to use in your searches.

In addition to your textbooks, the following can be useful sources of background reading material:

Subject encyclopedias

Subject encyclopedias can be a useful source of reliable background information on a wide variety of topics.

Subject encyclopedias can be found in eBook Collection (EBSCOhost).



Books may provide a comprehensive overview of a topic and often contain bibliographies that will lead you to further sources of information. Just keep in mind that if your topic is fairly new, a book about your topic may not have been published yet.

To find ebooks, use eBook Collection (EBSCOhost).

The free Web

The free Web is that portion of the Internet open to everyone (as opposed to our library databases, for example, which only UMGC students, faculty, and staff can access). You can search the free Web using search engines such as Google or Yahoo!. Depending on your topic, a subject-specific search engine may provide more relevant research than Google or Yahoo!, which were designed for more general use.


If you decide to use the free Web for background reading, make sure to evaluate the websites you use.