Thursday, February 7, 2013

Research Process: Selecting a Topic

Rio Grande Freshman Rebekah Milliner trying to decide what write...
Today we’re looking at the Research Process again.  Last semester we explored some activities to help you in getting started with an investigative assignment or project such as a research paper.  Now, we’d like to continue that discussion by sharing a few things to consider when developing and selecting your research topic.  

Choose a Topic You Like…

Deciding the subject of your research is important.  Your project’s success depends not only on your picking strong topic to explore, but also on making a choice of what’s right for you.

Working through the Research Process can be hard and tedious, so dealing with a topic you enjoy and that feeds your sense of curiosity will help to keep you on task.  When things get rough or even a little boring, you need something that’ll sustain your interest and enthusiasm. 

Already been assigned a specific topic?  Very often you’ll be given some leeway on how to approach and “take ownership” of the subject matter.  Consider those aspects of the assigned topic that grab your attention.  Focus on what fascinates or appeals to you most, particularly those topics that make you want to learn more?

For example, let’s say you’ve been asked to explore some aspect of “Cold War” in a research paper for your American History class and you really love graphic novels.  It’s quite possible that you might be able to use your interest in Marvel or DC Comics to examine growing anxieties over atomic weaponry in the post-World War II years.

Get Ideas for Topics…

Need some inspiration?  Look at the headings in your textbook or course syllabus for relevant topics.  

Brainstorm!  Start writing down whatever comes to mind—silly or not.  Generally fun and playful, this activity helps to get your “creative juices” flowing by generating a greater awareness as to how you might approach a problem or the task at hand.   

Brainstorming can be done alone or with friends.  Bouncing around your ideas with others should give you a fresh perspective on learning new things about your topic that you’d never considered before.

Meeting with your professor is also advantageous.  Their experience and expertise can give additional insight on what constitutes a good topic for the assignment.  They’ll be able to let you know how practical your own ideas are in relation to what you’re being asked to do and its relationship to the overall goals of the course.

Besides  finding a topic you like, finding something that's doable (especially in the timeframe you're given to complete the project) is essential to your success as well.

So, check back here on our blog again soon as "Make Sure Your Topic is Workable" will be the focus of our next post in this series.

Have any questions about this beginning phase of the Research Process?  

Just… “Ask Us!

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