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How to choose a topic for a research paper

June 21, 2017 - Posted toWriting Tips

Content how to choose a topic for a research paper

Oh, those research papers. They just keep on coming, every semester in almost every course. One of the biggest problems right in the beginning is how to choose a topic for a research paper. It’s just so easy for a professor to “throw out” the assignment and maybe give a broad general area for a research paper (like, anything covered in the entire course). But it is up to you take a look at the length requirements and choose a research paper topic that the instructor will then consider worthy.

So, How Do You Choose a Good Research Paper Topic?

Believe it or not, there are a lot of steps the you can take for choosing a topic for a research paper. You will probably want to use more than one in fact.

Here are your options:

  1. Review the Curriculum and Textbook

Remember – a good topic for research paper work will be one that your instructor thinks is worthy. If you can locate a research paper topic idea within areas of the curriculum or text that your instructor has spent a lot of time on, then that topic will be considered worthy.

  1. Get Research Paper Topic Ideas from Others

Interesting research paper topic ideas can be found online. You might google the course subject and look at a list of topics – there will be at least a few research paper topic examples that will interest you.

  1. Brainstorm Topic Ideas for Research Paper

Choose a general topic area of the course subject matter that interests you, and ask yourself a couple of questions:

  • Do I have a strong opinion on something related to my coursework?
  • Have I read something recently that caused me to think about a topic more?
  • What have I read or heard in lectures that has been interesting to me?
  1. Talk to Your Instructor

If you are really struggling for a good topic for research paper, make an appointment with your instructor and discuss it. S/he will have lots of suggestions. Here’s the other benefit. If you choose a topic suggested by your instructor, you know it is one that s/he likes, and that can be a good thing.

You Have Your General Topic Idea – Now What?

So, you now have an interesting topic for research paper writing. Your next challenge is to narrow that topic to one that is manageable and will meet the length requirements of the assignment. One of the biggest mistakes that students make in the beginning is that they choose a more specific topic that is either too broad or too narrow.

Here’s a simple example of this challenge: Your topic of research paper is the environment. That may have been assigned by your instructor, or you may be in a science or political science class and have chosen this topic. Obviously, the topic “the environment” is far too broad. How do you narrow this down? Here are some tips:

  • Narrow by Geography: Is there an environmental problem in particular country or region that interests you?  When you think about what is a good topic for a research paper, you need to think in terms of what you want to know more about.
  • Narrow by Type: How many types of environmental issues are there? Dozens! From the destruction of coral reefs to rising sea levels, to carbon emissions, and everything in between, there are just a huge number of issues.
  • Narrow by Impact on Population Group: How does air pollution affect citizens of China? Or, how does air pollution affect the elderly? Or, how do rising sea levels impact those who live in coastal areas?

Once you have narrowed your topic somewhat, it will be time to do some initial research. You want to make sure that there is enough information/data on your focused topic to actually produce a paper. And, if there is too much, you will need to narrow more

Turn that Research Paper Topic into a Question

Research paper topic ideas for college students are very different from those you did in high school. Then, you focused just on factual information. In college, your thesis statements will be more complex and speak to your opinions and/or the significance of your topic. You will be able to get to a good thesis statement by asking those questions.

Get Help When You Need It

The details of how to pick a research paper topic are all here. If you follow these tips, you should be able to find an area of focus that will meet the requirements of the assignment and also be something that interests you personally.

But how to choose a topic for a research paper is just the first step on a much longer journey. There is the thesis statement and appropriate research to locate (you need primary sources); there is the collation and synthesis of all of that research, the creation of an outline, and, of course, the actual writing. If you are stuck on any of these steps, or if you are just overwhelmed by several papers at one time, you should get some help from a professional research paper writing service – one that has scholars in your topic area. They can provide consultation, research, writing, and even reviews and editing – services that will allow you to turn in a great piece of academic writing.


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