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SPCH 101 - Lai - Winter 2024: Topic Development

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Below is a sample of the login screen for off-campus access to library databases.  Use your AccessRio login and password.

Get Started by Doing Some Background Reading

Start by Doing Background Reading:
First, you need to do background reading. Doing so at the beginning of your research helps you understand your topic right from the start. You will be able to put your topic in context and create research questions that drive your search for information. In addition, when you continue researching you will know if what you find is relevant and useful.

You need to begin understanding your topic early in order to know:

  1. What information you need to find
  2. Whether or not what you are finding is relevant
  3. What search terms will lead to successful searches
  4. What information is reliable

You do not have to read a lot of books to get this valuable background information. In addition to reference books that you'll find in the library catalog, you can use articles and book chapters from the library's online databases of articles and reference e-books.  Listed to the right are selected background resources.

Sources for Background Reading

Conduct your pre-research by using some general and discipline-specific reference sources:

  1. Reference books; look at the table of contents and index for ideas
  2. General encyclopedias such as World Book Encyclopedia (in the Library) to locate a broad topic
  3. Gale eBooks (Gale Virtual Reference Library) for subject encyclopedias and reference books online
  4. Subject (specialized) encyclopedias from the Library - Reference Books area - Use the catalog to locate
  5. List of Topics from the Rio Hondo College Website

Begin Topic Development

Develop a general or broad topic from your background reading

From your general topic and readings you can begin to develop a refined topic that will developed into a thesis statement or research question.

If your topic is too broad begin to narrow/refine it by adding an aspect of the topic, a time period, limit it to a location/geography, population, etc.


Below is an example of narrowing the topic of:


Narrow byExamples
aspects of the topic

law and legislation
moral and ethical aspects

time period

20th century
21st century
2000-2010 (a range of years)


United States (or another country)
Los Angeles


Teens or Juveniles
Hispanic Americans

Arrive at a researchable thesis or research question

Given your assigned question, how can you arrive at a researchable thesis statement that you can discuss in a well-argued paper?

  • What is the minimum number of pages expected for the assignment?
  • Is your thesis statement too broad?  Too narrow?

Identify keywords and concepts

Keywords and concepts describe the main idea(s) of your topic and enable you to focus your research.

  • Based on your readings, course syllabus, assigned texts, jot down the terms that you identify as the keywords and main concepts.
  • Use background information from reference sources such as the Gale eBooks (Gale Virtual Reference Library), Reference books, and subject (specialized) encyclopedias to find additional keywords and synonyms.
  • Group the keywords by concept.
  • Identify synonyms of your keywords (e.g., synonyms for "teenagers" are adolescents, youths, and children).


Does Education reduce recidivism in Prisons?







Related Terms:


Related Terms:

Repeat offenders

Related Terms:



Rio Hondo Library Catalog

primo search box

Use the Library Catalog to find books, both in print and online! If you've used the Library Catalog before, you will notice that we have a new interface.

How do I search a library catalog?

The most common search options are:

  • Keyword (Any field)
  • Title
  • Author/Creator
  • Subject

Search by Keyword to get started. Keywords should include the main ideas of your topic and/or synonyms.

How do I locate ebooks?

To locate ebooks, look for records that say Available Online (see the fourth book in the example below).‚Äč

Primo catalog search results

Can I make my search results only display ebooks?

You can apply a filter under Availability (see example below). Select Available online.

If you're feeling extra, check out our other useful filters!

primo catalog filters availability callout

How do I open an ebook to start reading?

Find the view Full Text link under View Online (see example below). This link wlll open up to one of our ebook databases. If you are accessing from off-campus, you will be asked to log in with your AccessRio.

Primo catalog ebook details example

What can I do if I can't find any good ebooks?

  • If you’re not finding anything with your chosen keywords, try searching synonyms (example: “commercials” instead of “advertisement”).
  • Use quotations to change your keyword search to a phrase search (example: "fast food" in quotes searches these two words together).
  • Take a look at the Subject links in the book's catalog record (see below). By clicking on a Subject link, the Catalog searches for other books that have the same Subject term -- like #hashtags!

book record details subject terms

If you are looking for ebooks that offer a more general overview of a topic, we recommend using Gale eBooks (formerly known as Gale Virtual Reference Library). This database is like an academic version of Wikipedia because it has encyclopedia entries that can be searched by keyword or topic. Try searching it now!