How to Choose a Topic for Your Research Paper

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					How to Choose a Topic for Your Research Paper

                                                               As class starts your Professor announces
                                                               that there will be a term paper due in two
                                                               months. He continues, explaining that the
                                                               paper is going to be a large investment
                                                               requiring a lot of time and dedication.
                                                               You lean forward in anticipation, listening
                                                               for what the topic will be. After clearing
                                                               his throat your professor states that the
                                                               topic is open to your decision.

                                                               The first thoughts in your head are, ‘this is
                                                               great! I can pick whatever I want…wait
                                                               what do I want?”

This is probably the hardest part of the paper, choosing the topic. It also is the most important. A term
paper is going to take weeks of preparation and if you are not fond of your topic this could be hours of
personal torture.

No need to fear though, choosing your topic does not have to be that hard. Here are some easy steps
for you to follow.

    1. Does Open Really Mean Open?

    Your professor has declared the topic to be chosen at your discretion, but he may also have some
    preconceptions as to what makes a good topic. Stop by his office after class and discuss the paper
    with him. Ask for examples of topics he would like to see. His advice will be very insightful and he
    may even give you a few ideas to start with.

    2. Begin the Brainstorm

           Grab a pad of paper and a pen and get
            ready to write anything and everything
            that comes into your head. No bad
            ideas at this point, write any possible
            topic you can think of. Begin in the
            morning when you wake up with
            twenty minutes of just straight
            brainstorming. You can do this during
      As you prepare to leave the house take the pad with you and keep the topic in your head. It
       can be amazing how ideas seem to come from out of nowhere as you go through your day.
       Write these down the moment they come to you so they are not lost with the rest of your
      Ask your friends and family for ideas. Write down what they say, even if the ideas are silly.
       The more people you ask the more possible perspectives you will have.
      Do this for the whole day or even a few days if you have the time and on the last day it is
       time to review the list for the final storm. Read through the possible topics using them as
       inspiration and write down any others that pop into your head.

3. Start the Sifting

                                                      Now that you have a pad full of different ideas
                                                      for your topic you need to start sifting the wheat
                                                      from the tares. Eliminate the topics that will not
                                                      work for your paper. Here are some things to
                                                      keep in mind.

                                                                        Do the Categories fit the Paper
                                                      requirements? Think back to the discussion you
                                                      had with your professor and the type of topics
                                                      that he is looking for in a paper. Remove any of
                                                      the topics that won’t work.
      Does it interest you? This is going to be a long paper so make sure that you enjoy it. If the
       topic seems boring take it off the list.
      Can the topic support a paper? Hopefully we are down to around 10 ideas. Now it is time
       to do a little bit of background research to make sure that there is enough written about the
       topic already to do pull from. If it looks like it is going to be difficult task finding information
       on the topic, scratch it.
      Do we have a perspective? You will need more than a topic; you need a point to prove.
       Look through your ideas and write down your viewpoint on each of them. Are you trying to
       prove, to disprove? If there really is no purpose to writing on a topic other than reporting,
       ditch it.
      What is the Best? We have a few topics left and now it really is up to you and your personal
       preferences. Pick the best three topics you have and write a mock thesis statement for each
       of them. You now have three potential papers.
      Consult with the grade giver. Go back to your professor. Bring your three topics and thesis
       statements and ask the professor his thoughts. If you have done a good job he will probably
       say yes to all three, but it is good to ask anyway.
       Your final choice? You have done the work, prepared well, so now make your choice from
        the three.

4. Stay Flexible

Now that you have a topic you can begin your research, but one thing I have learned is the more you
know about a topic the more your perspective can change. Maybe in a couple weeks you may want
to tweak your thesis, this is ok. If you would like chat with your professor about possible changes do
so. Lastly, remember to smile. Whether you are in a Salt Lake College, a New York university, or an
online school you are on your way to a great paper.

Photo Credit: markgranitz, Juhan Sonin, World Bank Photo Collection

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Description: No need to fear though, choosing your topic does not have to be that hard. Here are some easy steps for you to follow.