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Choosing the Right Topic for a Paper

Most seasoned  researchers would agree that once the right topic is chosen for a research paper half the job is done. But finding one is easier said than done. In most cases instructors would be willing to give a student a free  reign on topic selection and in that case you can choose something that evokes your interest. This article looks at such a case and gives you the do’s and dont’s to be followed while selecting a research topic.

Before you start  researching for a topic make sure you brain storm for ideas. Some of the directions to brain storm are as follows:

  • Why not work on connecting the research area to your hobbies or passions?
  • Is there a political or economic debate or a news story or current affairs that have caught your fancy?
  • Why not probe deeper and deeper into your own life at the moment to figure out if there are questions or problems for which you seek an answer?
  • Is there a subject within your course which you have taken a liking for and would like to venture deeper into?

Pondering on the questions listed above can probably help you focus your brain storming, in case you are a novice. For  experts you can skip this step and move straight into research.

Irrespective of your area of research it is imperative that you look deep for background information. At the end of your brainstorming you might have narrowed you list to a maximum of four to five topics. At this point, remember to not have ten topics that you want to write a paper on. It is wise to stay focused and look for topics related to each other so as to undertake background information search in related threads. This will not just help you stay focused but will also broaden your horizon on finding out the breadth of information available for research in the area of your choice.

Do not keep your focus too narrow or too broad. One strategy to limit the reach of your topic is to segregate it by area , culture , time period or discipline. When the area  or focus is too narrow it might be difficult to collect enough informtaion. Also the scope will not help you expand on ideas. The arguements also might not be enough to get you the grades that you target when you narrow down your area of research.

When you are looking for a topic of research it is always a tendency to take up something that has happened in the recent past.It could be a political issue or just a news story that has piqued your interest. This has both its advantages and disadvantages.The advantage of taking up a current topic is that there will be loads of information both for and against a perspective that you wish to take. However there may also be a lot of fake information that may mislead you to take the wrong stand .  In the case of a current event there is also the risk of you being forced to take a safe stand which may not necessarily be the right one  because of popular public opinion influencing you.

It is advisable to correlate a research topic to specific keywords so that you know where you need to focus your reserach on.The first thing to do in this regard is to identify words or phrases that describe your topic in detail. Try to work back wards from available information when you spot keywords.In order to increase the scope of your search include sysnonyms, broad terms and key ideas in your keywords.

Some researchers recommend that a toppic should have in built flexibility .This essentially means that during the course of research in case one comes across more information in a related yet not significantly different area there should be flexibility to minorly alter the topic of study. Yet another related aspect of research is when during the search for back ground information you find that there is another angle for the same topic which is more interesting and argumentative. In such cases also you may need to change the topic. Thus a certain amount of in- built flexibility should be there for any research.

The chosen keywords along with the topic of study should be the main focus in the research question. The usual practice is that one first starts with a word, which converts into an idea which in turn leads to one or more topics and then invariably becomes a specific one thereby leading to one or  more questions to be answered. For example in case you decide that the area is environment, the first question to be asked is what area in enviroment. Let us assume that you decide on the next subset pollution which leads you to the next question regarding what type of pollution. Lets assume you decide on water pollution moving you to a narrower area within water pollution which let us say is sustainability. So moving in this track you may decide on the topic “ Sustainable practices to mitigate water Pollution”. This should lead you to your research question which would be framed in this manner:

What are the sustainable practices to alleviate water pollution in “ ……….” the blank to be filled being either a geographical area or an industry on your choice.

Once such a question is framed you have all the necessary keywords and you know what to research on and all that you need to do is  to kick start your research. It is also advisable to develop your thesis statement after or along with framing your research question. The aforesaid pointers are just suggestions which can be followed. It is ideal to go through the article and develop your own strategy for finding a research topic of your choice for your paper. Wishing reserachers some great searching for finding out the reserach idea of their dreams. Happy seraching.