They say that the only thing permanent in the world is change. The same is true with research and information. In today’s age, there will always be new information that scientists and researchers discover, as we get to know more about the world, including many of its unknown mysteries. Hence, many individuals invest both time and money dedicated to exploring the unknown and prove what was once just an abstract concept or theory.
This is the reason why research as a field is an important aspect of everyday life. Here are seven simple steps on how you can select your research topic.
Step 1: Brainstorm for ideas
Take a look at the topics that interest you, including topics you would most commonly search or read about, and list them all down. It is easier for researchers to write something about areas that they are genuinely interested and passionate in.
Write down any key words or concepts that may be of interest to you. Could these terms help be used to form a more focused research topic? Make sure that you are also aware of overused ideas when deciding a topic. You may wish to avoid topics such as, abortion, gun control, teen pregnancy, or suicide unless you feel you have a unique approach to the topic. If you have any additional questions, ask your instructor for ideas if you feel you are stuck or need additional guidance.
Step 2: Read General Background Information
Here are some tips on how to search for and read general background information:
Read general articles on the top two or three topics you are considering. Reading a broad summary enables you to get an overview of the topic and see how your idea relates to broader, narrower, and related issues. It also provides a great source for finding words commonly used to describe the topic. These keywords may be very useful to your later research. If you cannot find an article on your topic, try searching for broader terminologies.
There are some topics that may be too specific and can only be covered in local articles, newsletters, and newsprints. It is best to check out your community library if you would want to focus on these local issues.
Use web search engines like Google and Bing which are currently considered to be two of the best search engines to find websites on the topic.
Step 3: Focus on Your Topic
A topic will be very difficult to research if it is too broad or narrow. One way to narrow a broad topic such as “the environment” is to limit your topic. Some common ways to limit a topic are:
By geographical area
By population group
Step 4: Be Flexible
The research process is an often arduous task and more often than not, there will be many revisions and changes even to your research title and topic! In fact, it is quite common to modify your topic during the research process. You can never be sure of what you may find. You may find too much and need to narrow your focus, or too little and need to broaden your focus. This is a normal part of the research process. When researching, you may not wish to change your topic, but you may decide that some other aspect of the topic is more interesting or manageable.
Step 5: Define Your Topic as a Focused Research Question
You will often begin with a word and then develop a more focused interest in an aspect of something relating to that word, then begin to have questions about the topic.
Here are the characteristics of good research questions each researcher should know and apply:
Clear: it provides enough specifics that one’s audience can easily understand its purpose without needing additional explanation.
Focused: it is narrow enough that it can be answered thoroughly in the space the writing task allows.
Concise: it is expressed in the fewest possible words.
Complex: it is not answerable with a simple “yes” or “no,” but rather requires synthesis and analysis of ideas and sources prior to composition of an answer.
Arguable: its potential answers are open to debate rather than accepted facts.
Use the keywords you have gathered to research in the catalog, article databases, and Internet search engines. Find more information to help you answer your research question.
You will need to do some research and reading before you select your final topic. Can you find enough information to answer your research question? Remember, selecting a topic is an important and complex part of the research process.
Step 7: Formulate a Thesis Statement
Write your topic as a thesis statement. This may be the answer to your research question and/or a way to clearly state the purpose of your research. Your thesis statement will usually be one or two sentences that states precisely what is to be answered, proven, or what you will inform your audience about your topic. The development of a thesis assumes there is sufficient evidence to support the thesis statement.
The title of your paper may not be exactly the same as your research question or your thesis statement, but the title should clearly convey the focus, purpose and meaning of your research.
The steps enumerated above will surely help newbie researchers in passing through the first hurdle of choosing their research topic. By following the steps, any researcher can easily choose a topic of his or her interest and develop it into a full-blown thesis paper.