Choosing a specific Research Paper Topic in 3 Steps

The topic you choose for your research paper can make these intimidating assignments go smoothly, or feel like a chore. It’s important to choose an appropriate topic for your paper, and to choose one which will facilitate your research and writing process. Here are three simple steps you can follow to choose a great topic.

  1. Research for Fun
  2. This stage simply involves getting some reading material you find interesting on a number of broad topics that could provide inspiration for your paper. The material doesn’t need to be rigorous, either. Magazine articles, web browsing, and other casual research methods can pique your interest in a more specific subtopic. Once you’ve identified a few different areas of interest, make note of them and move on to step two.

  3. Brainstorm Questions
  4. A thesis for your research paper is, essentially, an answer to a question which you yourself have posed. So for the next stage of topic choosing, you’ll pose yourself some questions you’re interested in, based on the notes you took in step one. For each topic you’ve identified as a potential research paper topic, think of at least three questions. Now that you have three questions, rewrite each question in three ways: broad, slightly more specific, and very specific. Doing this can both inspire new questions and help to refine your topic in step three.

  5. Do Some Preliminary Research on Your Questions
  6. Choose your top five choices for your research paper topic. Now, it’s time to do a bit more research. This time, however, you don’t need to read anything in depth. You simply want to search, focusing on the types of sources your instructor will accept for the final paper, to see if there’s information available on these topics. A quick skim of an article can let you know whether or not it would be fruitful in trying to answer your question. Sometimes, the title alone of a published article or a book is enough to let you know it’s suitable. Choose the question for which there seems to be plenty of research material available.

That’s it! You’ve now got a great research topic to work with. To develop your thesis from this topic, you need only think of a few potential answers to the question you’ve posed, and choose the one that you like the most—if your research doesn’t bear it out, you can always adjust your thesis slightly.

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