by Timothy Howe
All academics do research. Finding research topics is a part of the job. If you are in academia you will need to research. Whether you are working on a research paper, thesis, dissertation, field project, or a new book, you will need to research. Many times research topics come easily. They are dictated by someone else, by pressing circumstances or are a particular passion. However, almost every writer comes to a point in his or her career when he or she is required to write without a lead. The writer knows that something must be written, but what?
Six Steps to Choosing Your Research Topics
1. Work in an area of personal interest.
You will not want to research a topic that is dull to you. The larger the project, the more personal investment will be required to stay the course. So, from the beginning investigate topics that interest you. It is also likely to be the area where you already have some expertise.
2. Consider if your interest matters.
Just because you like a topic does not mean it is either important or interesting to others. Since writers presumably research in order to be read, consider if your interest matters. If it does not, select a new one. If it does, your are on the right track.
3. Identify what research already exists in your field of interest.
You do not want to expend a great deal of research effort only to find out that someone else has written your paper. Identity what topics are sufficiently covered and what topics have questions yet unanswered or conclusions yet unchallenged.
4. Brainstorm various possibilities.
Before researching, sit down and come up with as many ideas as you can concerning your interest. Among other things, brainstorming benefits you by leading you to something you never before considered, helping to establish the outline for when you begin writing, and by producing many future topics.
5. Narrow your topic to a manageable size.
It does no good to choose a topic of gargantuan scale. You must narrow your topic as soon as possible to a size that is appropriate for your project. Research papers must be very narrow in focus; theses, dissertations and books can be a bit broader, but be careful to not let them grow unwieldy.
6. Choose your topic.
Sometimes the enemy is not the lack of a topic, but it is that you cannot decide between equally compelling topics. There comes a time when you must simply choose. Choose your topic and begin your research. Put your remaining other good topic ideas in your mental vault for future research.
Finally, once you have chosen your topic, start writing.