Selecting a Topic
An important skill is the ability to develop a good research topic. A teacher can assign you a specific topic, but teachers usually require you to choose your own topic. When you decide on a topic, there are a few things to do:
• Brainstorm for ideas ̈
• Choose a topic that allows you to read and understand the literature ̈
• ensure that the topic is manageable and that material is available ̈
• make a list of key words ̈
• be flexible ̈
• define your topic as a focused research question ̈
• and read more about your topic ̈
Be aware that it may not be easy to select a good topic. It must be narrow and concentrated enough to be interesting, but sufficiently broad to find appropriate information. Before you select your subject, make sure that you know how your final project should look. Each class or instructor will probably need a different research project format or style.
Use the steps below to guide you through the process of selecting a research topic.
Step 1: Brainstorm for ideas
Choose a topic that interests you. Use the following questions to help generate topic ideas.
• Have you a strong opinion about a current social or political controversy?
• Have you recently read or watched a news story that has aroused your interest or angry or anxious?
• Would you like to know more about a personal problem, problem or interest?
• Do you have a research paper this semester for a class?
• Are you interested in learning more about an aspect of a class?
Look at some of the following topically oriented Web sites and research sites for ideas.
• Are you interested in current events, government, politics or science?
• Try Washington File
• You are interested in medicine or health?
• Look at Healthfinder. gov, the Health & Wellness Resource Center or the National Medicine Library...
• Are you interested in humanities?
• Browse links from the National Humanities Endowment ̈
• For other topics, try:
• Scout Report or the New York Times / College website Write down any key words or concepts that might be of interest to you.
Could these terms help form a more concentrated research subject?
When deciding on a topic, be aware of overused ideas. You may want to avoid such things as abortion, gun control, adolescent pregnancy or suicide unless you feel that you have a unique approach to the subject. Ask your instructor if you feel stuck or need further guidance.
Step 2: Read General Background Information
Read an article on the top two or three topics that you are considering. By reading a comprehensive summary, you can get an overview of the subject and see how your idea relates to broader, narrower and related problems.
It is also a great source for finding words that are commonly used to describe the subject. These keywords can be very useful for researching later. If you can find an article on your subject, try using broader terms and ask a librarian for help.
Browse the American Encyclopedia for information on your ideas on the subject. Note that both online encyclopedias link to articles in magazines and websites. These are on the right or left margins.
• Use periodic indexes to scan current articles in magazines, journals or newspapers on your subject. Ask a librarian if they can help you navigate through articles about your topics. NET Use search engines Web.
Step 3: Focus on Your Topic
Keep it manageable
A topic will be very difficult to investigate if it is too wide or too small. One way to narrow a broad topic like the " environment " is to restrict your subject.