How to Go About Choosing Appropriate Topics for a Research Paper

Are you taking a writing-intensive course, that requires a research paper on a topic of your choosing? This can be a very discouraging task. Perhaps your instructor provided a list of sample topics that was extremely long, or perhaps you were left to fly completely blind and just performed a web search of topic ideas. Either way, you have been left with a variety of possible topics to explore and have no idea where to start.

Don’t worry! There’s no need to be overwhelmed by hundreds of potential research paper topics. The following suggestions will help your whittle down your options and select the optimal area of exploration.

Know Your Strengths and Passions

Consider which aspects of the course you are the most accomplished in, and only expend serious attention on the research topics that are relevant to that area. If you are a skilled student in a variety of areas, consider the research paper topics that are most closely related your own interests and passions. You will perform better in writing your research paper if you are passionate.

Do you excel in Biology? Consider only research paper topics involving cells, plant life, ecological systems, or other biological topics. Do you prefer Chemistry? Consider topics that will make use of your knowledge base. Are you more interested in the Humanities? Consider research paper topics than involve literary criticism or historical research involving archives.

Rule Out Topics You Don’t Grasp

It’s likely that some of the research topics you are considering involve complex terminology or concepts that you struggled with at one point or another, or which you currently don’t have the greatest grasp of. As you read topic ideas, ask yourself you could explain and define all the terms in the prompt, off the top of your head, with no help from outside sources. If you cannot do this, move on to another topic. If you are going to be writing a lengthy paper about a subject, it should be one you are very comfortable with.

Choose Something Your Instructor Finds Interesting

Your list of potential research paper topics is probably quite broad, and no class can cover every small, yet relevant topic. Pay attention to which subjects or special areas your instructor talks about a lot, particularly the ones that get him or her excited. You may even wish to ask your professor which topics he or she studies or cares the most about. If possible, choose a topic that is relevant to this area of their expertise.

Choosing a topic that is beloved by your instructor has many advantages. First, your professor will be happy to read your paper, and will feel a kinship for you because you have taken an interest in something they enjoy. Second, you will have greater access to information and help than if you picked a topic that was not covered in class. Third, you can ask your instructor for additional information or feedback.

These suggestions should help make the process of selecting a research paper topic more manageable and less overwhelming.

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