Finding a Good Topic

Your topic needs to be neither too broad that you can't adequately do an analysis within the scope of the class or too narrow that there is not enough existing research to analyse. The fact that you need to have your topic approved by Dr. Kilby is a built in safety net.  Here are some tried and true tips for identifying a good topic.

  • Explore the topics listed in the syllabus as a starting point.
  • Explore topics defined in books or quality reliable web sites (including wikipedia!)
  • Browse the popular press for topics (beware that current events don't make good topics but the underlying issues illustrated by current events can be fruitful.)
  • Browse scholarly databases or journals.

Finding Research Literature

Finding the research literature on your topic typically necessitates your using multiple search engines and search techniques including the following:

  • Search article databases directly (Google Scholar, EconLit, PAIS, SSCI, Scopus)
  • Mine the bibliographies of "on point" articles to find supporting and challenging studies.
  • Identify the seminal (or most influential/pioneering) works
    • by closely reading the literature reviews of articles found
    • by noticing citation frequency (in Google Scholar or Web of Knowledge or Scopus databases)

 Foreign Aid Article Databases

  Google Scholar

  EconLit with Full Text (EBSCO)

  PAIS International (ProQuest)

  Social Sciences Citation Index - Web of Science (Clarivate)

  Scopus (Elsevier)

Working with Data

There are at least three common ways to find data for analysis.

  • Find data sets in indices such as Statitisical Insights.
  • Identify data sets used by others via their research papers.
  • Browse relevant & known data sources (such as those listed below).

Once you've identified a promising data look for these features

  • Make sure the datapoints are populated (many databases indicate that they have data by location or time period but the data is incomplete)
  • Read the data documentation to be sure that the variables measure what you think they do.
  • Make sure you have enough data points for analysis.
  • Make sure the data is comparable
  • Checks the units for uniformity.


 Development Aid Data


  OECD Statistics

  USAID - Sub Saharan Africa

  World Bank World Development Indicators (WDI)

  Statistical Insight (ProQuest)  Tutorial

  IMF Data Free

Practice Exercise