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Purpose: The first step in writing a research paper is finding a good topic. Your topic will have to be something that falls within the guidelines provided by your instructor, and should also be something that you find interesting and would like to learn more about. This guide will help you pick an appropriate and engaging topic for your research paper.
Instructions: Follow the steps below to select or narrow down your research topic.
- Carefully consider the assignment that was given to you. Your instructor almost certainly gave you some guidelines on what your paper should cover. It is very important to consider these guidelines before you select a topic for your paper. It is always a good idea to review your assignment before you begin work. If in doubt, check with your instructor.
- Know what range of topics is available to you. Answer the questions below, following the instructions as you work through them.
Did your instructor say you need to write your paper on a specific topic or did they give you a list of topics to pick from? If so, be sure to select one of the topics provided by your instructor.
Did your instructor say you need to write about a topic within a specific topic area? If so, you’ll need to pick a topic that is acceptable for your assignment. Move on to step 3.
Did your instructor say your paper could relate to anything covered in class? If so, look back through your class syllabus, your text book, your class notes, or have a talk with your instructor. You want to determine what topics in your class you find most interesting, and select one accordingly. Move on to step (3).
- Narrow your topic. In the steps above, you should have identified an appropriate topic area for your paper. The next step will be to select a specific topic within this area. Using a graphic organizer to write out your ideas can help with this process. You can download one to print out here. Below, you will see an example. In the rectangle, you will write down the topic area that you identified in step (2). In the circles surrounding it, you will write down specific topics that fall within your topic area. These will form a selection of possible topics to choose from. You will select just one to focus on.
- Write your topic down below. The next step will be to come up with a research question. The guide Developing a Good Research Question can help with this.
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