Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Psychology (Penn State Berks)

Welcome to the virtual library for students in psychology courses at Penn State Berks.

Getting Started with a Paper

two students discussing topics

How do I find a good topic?  What keywords should I use to search for my topic?  How do I create a thesis statement from that topic?

Good questions! Check out the links and videos on this page to find answers.




Topic Brainstorming Tips

drawing of five people with the word "brainstorming" below and in a thought bubble above the word "idea" which comes from all five people

  • Browse through psychology magazines and journals to see what catches your eye.
  • Always read over the research assignment and consult the instructor when deciding upon a topic. 
  • Consider what type of applied psychology subfield (counseling, HR, etc.)  you would like to work in and find a topic relevant to that career.
  • Think about interesting psychology-related stories you have seen in the news lately. Brainstorm a topic related to those.
  • Bounce topic ideas off fellow psyhcology students.


Finding the Best Keywords for a Search

After you brainstorm a topic, you'll want to pick out 2-5 keywords describing your topic.  Keywords are the terms that you type into the search box in a library database.  They are the essential terms for your idea, the most important words describing your topic.  Choosing the right keywords can save hours of searching time.

A Fun Brainstorming Activity...

Grab some paper and a pencil--watch this video and you'll have some topic ideas in minutes!

Thesis Statement Checklist

circle with a check mark in the middle
  • Is your thesis statement one sentence?
  • Is it clear what your position is on the topic?
  • Does it appear early on in the paper?
  • Does it summarize everything in your paper?
  • Is it based on evidence (data)?

Power Tip: Try to phrase your topic as a question.  Then, after you conduct your research, try to answer that question in one sentence.  The answer to your question may make a good thesis statement for your paper.


Finding a scholarly encyclopedia essay can help you refine your topic and brainstorm keywords.

Top Encyclopedias:

Collections of Encyclopedias: