When a professor or instructor assigns a research paper one of the most difficult steps is choosing the best topic possible. To make the selection process easier here are a few simple steps. Combining some of the steps or eliminating one or two altogether is also a valid option. Choosing the best topic for a research topic is a very personal decision.
One of the most important steps to choosing your research topic is clarifying what your professor or instructor expects from you. Here is a simple checklist to assignment comprehension.
- General Topic – Verify you know what area you need to research. You do not want to research the impact of excessive gaming on society if you need to focus on topics related to renaissance art.
- When is the deadline – This is key as it helps plan the pace for doing the assignment.
- Length – Knowing how many pages you need to write can help determine how much research you need to perform.
- Required resources – Your instructor/professor may require you use three different sources minimum others may be lenient. Verify this number for your research.
- Paper formatting – Verify the specific formatting required for your research paper. Do you need a works cited, a bibliography, and a table of contents? Additionally, determine if the paper should use MLA formatting, APA formatting or something completely different.
Brainstorm for Ideas
Once you are 100% comfortable with what is expected of you it is time to start the process of thinking of research paper topics. One of the best ways to do this is to brainstorm on a bunch of different topic ideas. If you need to write a paper on art, consider different eras, such as the Renaissance era, and narrow it down from there. If you need to focus on something related to modern technology, consider focusing on how it affects interpersonal relationships and socialization. Two popular ways to brainstorm include:
- Making lists – Simply jot down a list of ideas starting with one and continue until you have a few options. A list of 1 – 10 would be an excellent start.
- Mapping – Write a word in the center of a piece of paper. Draw a circle around it. Create extensions from the main topic narrowing it down. Example: Cellphones –> Internet Access –> Social Media –> Reduced face-to-face interaction
Once you have brainstormed and have a few ideas now it is time to start narrowing down your topics. One of the best ways to do this is to start looking into reliable resources. You do not want to select a topic with no reliable resources that will back up your thesis. Furthermore, it is essential that you narrow the topic as small as you can. When topics are too broad that offers a plethora of potential problems, key among them is getting away from the point you are trying to prove or disprove with your thesis.
It is important to stay away from hot button issues written about extensively or topics that elicit a strong opinion. Avoid papers on abortion, gun control, smoking, race, and religion. Consider topics where everyone can learn something new, such as the benefits of gaming, or ways in which parents can help reduce childhood obesity.
Get Input from others
If you continue to struggle with narrowing down your topic, consider talking with your peers, friends, family members, or even your professor for their input. They may offer you advice that you had not considered which can help narrow your topic. This step is not always necessary but it can be a beneficial tool.
Consider a Question to Answer with your Thesis
After brainstorming, research, and talking with others, it is time to ask a question about your topic that you will either prove or disprove. That question will help you formulate a workable thesis for which you can do continued research. Once you have asked your question and written your thesis, ensure the research you do will support your argument and will not allow you to drift off topic.
By following a few simple steps, selecting a topic for your research paper can prove an easier task than anticipated. It is important to remember to stay focused on your topic and avoid selecting one that is too broad. You also want to enjoy the subject matter you are writing about.