Tutorial: Choosing a Good Topic
How do you decide what to write about in a research paper?
Discover a focused topic:
- Make sure your topic meets the assignment requirements. If you are unsure, ask your professor for feedback;
- Choose a topic that is interesting to you;
- Choose a topic that others have written about in order to find enough resources;
- Consider the scope of your topic. Is it too broad or too narrow?
Here is an example of a topic that is too broad:
Here is an example of a topic that is too narrow:
Strategies for an effective research question
- Background research will help you learn more about your topic, find keywords, and refine your research question.
- Brainstorm related concepts and keywords. For example, if your topic is "polar bears" write down synonymous words or related topics: ice, cubs, global warming, hunting, diet, and "environmental icon".
- Limit your scope to manage your research. If you use a historical angle, then focus on a particular time period; for a geographical angle, focus on a particular part of the world; or a sociological angle, focus on a particular group of people.
- Start exploratory, in-depth research. As you start in-depth research, look for scholarly articles and books, then refine your topic based on what you find. Research is a dynamic process!
Resources that help with topic development:
- Talk to your instructor or the librarians at UMBC.
- Read your course readings and class notes for ideas.
- Wikipedia and Google provide background material, but not necessarily reliable information.
- Subject Guides, created by librarians at UMBC, identify subject encyclopedias, books, databases, and other scholarly materials.
- Online reference sources provide scholarly entries, overviews, and background information.
Modified from: http://library.pdx.edu/diy/choosing-good-topic