Tips for Selecting Research Topics
Students often report that finding a topic is often the most difficult part of writing a paper or preparing a presentation. A suitable research topic will be one that suits the assignment requirements, the time available, or the scope of the problem to be solved.
- Understand the assignment. Before beginning
your research, make sure you know exactly what is required and what your
professor has asked you to do. Your professors will usually provide detailed
instructions explaining what you will be writing about, what information
to include, and how the paper should be formatted. Even if you've been given
a topic, you will need to give it focus. Following the assignment instructions
will keep you from wasting time and energy.
Make sure you
understand these specifics about the assignment:
- What type of
presentation or paper is required? Are you writing an argumentative
essay, expressing your opinion, analyzing facts you've gathered, gathering
sources for a bibliography, or giving a speech?
- How long is
the presentation? Are you writing a 5-6 page paper or a bibliography, or
giving a 5 minute speech?
- How many and
what kind of sources are required? Can these sources be books, articles
from popular magazines or newspapers, Web sites, or are articles from scholarly
- What format
is required for your writing assignment? MLA, APA, or another?
- What is the due date.
- Try to avoid overused topic ideas. Topics like
abortion, gun control, teen pregnancy, assisted suicide, or athlete drug
abuse are often chosen by students and tend to be overused. If you
must use these overused topics try to think of some perspective on the
topic that may be unique.
- Choose a
topic that interests you. Personal interest
makes research more enjoyable and if it is of
interest to you, you'll probably do a better job of writing.
- If possible, work with a topic you are already researching for another class. This may save you some time and
allow you to explore different aspects of the same topic. For the assignments you will do in this class, you can use a topic that you are
writing about in your English 1010 class, or another class you are taking this semester. Or, use some of the ideas on finding a topic suggested above.
Sources for Topic Ideas
A few suggestions on where to look for topic ideas:
||Reference sources such as encyclopedias can be good sources of ideas for research topics and provide excellent background information. Reference sources can be found in the Reference Collection on the First Floor and by searching the library catalog.
||CQ Researcher is a database with fulltext reports on current topics and controversial topics. Reports provide background information, Pro/Con views, maps and graphs, and a bibliography with additional information sources. This database can be found by selecting Research, then Articles & Journals from the library homepage.
Opposing Viewpoints is a database with article on social issues which include pro/con essagys, topic overviews, primary source documents, peridical articles, and data. This database can also be found by selecting Research, then Articles & Journals from the library homepage.