How to Choose a Topic for Your Research Paper

The choice of topic for a paper is one of the most important (probably the most important) steps in writing an academic assignment. How well you manage to do it, how suitable the topic is for you specifically and for the assignment, in general, determines the success of your writing. Once you have made your choice, there is often no going back – you have to stick with the selected topic until the end. This is why you should always approach this task with utmost attention and focus – and in this article, we will teach you the necessary skills for selecting the topic that you will have no problems writing about.

pick a paper topic

The Qualities of a Good Topic

First of all, let us determine what qualities a good topic should possess, irrespectively of its other characteristics:

  • It should be suitable for analysis and many-sided evaluation. That is, there should be a certain degree of ambiguity about it so that your research is valuable. There is not much point in researching a topic everybody is in agreement about;
  • You should be able to navigate the topic you choose. It means that you should not select a topic you are absolutely unfamiliar with, or you will have to spend an inordinate amount of time learning about it. Find something you know about. Better yet, find something you know about from outside of class so that you can impress your professor with your additional knowledge;
  • Consider the size and scope of your paper. You should choose a topic that you will be able to fully cover, given word count restrictions. Otherwise, you may choose a topic you will have to analyze only superficially, which is not going to do you any good;
  • Consider your interests. It is always better to write about something that you are genuinely interested in. Your professor will immediately notice if s/he sees you simply going through the motions, so look for something you are passionate about.
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Brainstorming for Idea

Of course, you can always contact a writing service and simply say, “Write a paper for me,” but if you want to write your paper on your own, you cannot skip through the brainstorming step. Where do you get ideas for an assignment? Consider the following variants.

If you have a strong opinion on some current events related to the subject of your course, it can become an excellent topic, combining timeliness with personal interest. Alternatively, you may think about some personal issue or problem connected to the general theme of your course that you would like to know more about – it can also be a good reason to dive into the subject.

Have you written any papers for the course before? If so, look through them and check if any of them touch upon subjects that you did not research in sufficient detail and that lend themselves well for further study. This approach allows you to build upon your existing research and work with the material you already know well.

Perhaps you are interested in some aspect of the course? Do you remember any topics that piqued your interest from among those discussed in class? If so, you can go back to them and study them in greater detail. This approach allows you to benefit from all the study materials related to the course: your textbooks, your course readings, and so on.

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Clarifying and Developing Your Topic

Once you have defined the general topic you are going to cover in your research paper, you can start narrowing it down and clarifying what exactly you are going to do with it.

First of all, go to your supervisor with a list of several potential topics and ask him/her for input. It is best done early because supervisors can often greatly decrease the amount of time you spend on developing your topic by eliminating unviable ideas from the outset. They know the course better than you do and can point out which topics are easier and which are more challenging, which have plenty of material to go around, and which you will have a hard time finding anything about.

Gather information about the subject, starting with general articles in encyclopedias and moving on to scholarly publications in well-respected journals.

Then you should narrow down your topic based on one or more factors. This means that it is impossible to cover your topic in general within the confines of a single paper (especially if it is an essay). You have to take a small section, for example, limiting it by geographical area, by population group, by period, etc. (how exactly depends on the discipline you study).

Choosing a topic for a paper is always difficult – but by following these tips and consistently applying them for every assignment, you will be able to acquire the necessary skills in no time! 

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