Career Building Blog

Research Paper

How to Choose a Topic for a Research Paper

It seems so easy – just choose a topic for your paper – and yet it is so hard. What to write about, and (just as important) what not to write about? The key is to balance what you are interested in with what you can manage. Choose the wrong topic and your paper may never get off the ground. Choose the right topic and you enable yourself to properly focus and research your topic (a key ingredient to producing a top quality paper). Today’s video tutorial offers some solid advice on how to choose a good topic for your research paper.

Points to Remember

  1. Look for a topic that interests you
  2. Focus on a specific element or facet of the broader topic that you are interested in
  3. By narrowing your focus you will be able to:
    • Tell a good story and keep your readers interest
    • Manage the paper (i.e., you won’t get lost in too many details, facts, resources etc.)

The 8 Steps to Writing a Great Research Paper

  1. Pick a good, well-focused topic that you are interested in
  2. Determine the goal and/or purpose of your paper
  3. Gather together the best resources available on your topic
  4. Study and take notes of your resources
  5. Turn your notes into a well-organized outline
  6. Write a rough draft
  7. Revise (over and over again) your rough draft
  8. Get feedback from friends, colleagues and experts (then rewrite again)

Tips on How to Narrow the Focus of Your Topic

Points to Remember

  1. Talk to other people to brainstorm and get suggestions on how to narrow the focus of your topic – including (but not limited to):
    • Your professor
    • Other professors
    • Fellow students and classmates
    • Friends and family
    • Known experts
  2. Do some preliminary research in the library to help you find some good sub-topics to consider. Peruse scholarly journals, magazine articles, table of contents and introductions of books, etc. for ideas. Don’t forget to talk to the librarian to help you find some good resources. Note, though, that this is just preliminary research to help you generate a good, narrow topic – the solid research will come after you’ve selected a good topic.
  3. Online Encyclopedias, social bookmarking sites and the search engines can help you find online resources to help you generate topic ideas. While some of these resources may not be the most reliable source of information, they can help you to narrow your focus. Just take whatever they say with a grain (or more) of salt.

The 8 Steps to Writing a Great Research Paper

  1. Pick a good, well-focused topic that you are interested in
  2. Determine the goal and/or purpose of your paper
  3. Gather together the best resources available on your topic
  4. Study and take notes of your resources
  5. Turn your notes into a well-organized outline
  6. Write a rough draft
  7. Revise (over and over again) your rough draft
  8. Get feedback from friends, colleagues, and experts (then rewrite again)