How to Choose a Topic for the Research Paper

Choosing the topic for your research paper is perhaps the most daunting task because it effects every stage of research. Novice researchers quite often cannot forecast the disappointment they might go through in case they did not make a good choice. The researcher needs to go through several stages of brainstorming, reflecting and pondering before reaching to the final topic. There might be a situation when the researcher decides about the topic after a short thinking phase and that topic generates a great research but mostly a genuine research and thinking is required to decide about the research topic.

This article is written with a focus on the novice researchers or students who need to consider several factors that may or may not be a consideration for other researchers expert in their field. Students should consider the following questions before making the final decision about the research topic.

#1. Why  

Why am I choosing this topic for my research? The answer is definitely it is interesting  to you and you want to work on it. Select a topic that interests you so that you feel proud and content in conducting the research. Brainstorm about the topics that you think are interesting to you and will also be great for your research.  It also means that discover a topic that you are curious about and want to know about . Make a list of of your brainstormed ideas and shortlist those topics that you think are researchable as well as interesting to you.

Ask your supervisor whether the topic that seems interesting to you is a researchable topic or not. Thinking about what interest you only often ends in the selection of a very impulsive topic that is not suitable for research. To make your choice genuine and reasonable you need to do lots of research. Although you should consider your interests an important factor in selecting the topic but do not forget about the time frame and other resources that are available to conduct that study. Think about the sources that you might need to collect data in your research whether it will be easier for you to collect data or not.

#2. Where

Where will you find the references for your topic? Referencing is an important part of the research writing. For any research paper topic you need some references that support your point of view. You need references in the beginning of the research paper when you will write review of literature and in the end when you will write your own findings. These references make your findings worthwhile and valid. For a small research paper you might be given a very limited time period to complete the study you should be able to compile the references during this time. The topic should be one that has been worked on by several other authors in different ways.

Suppose you are writing a research paper on the impact of showing violence in animated movies on the behavior of children. You decide to do the survey-questionnaire to collect data and ask parents about the behavior problems they encountered in kids and the type of animated movies they watch. You can generate data but you also need to have good references from experts in this field to write the review of literature. You also need references to support your findings later on when you will collect and analyze the data. Plenty of references should be there because you cannot say anything without any reference that support your findings.

#3. When

When will you complete this study, will it be possible for you to complete it in the given time frame? Will you be able to complete this study in the available resources? The resources you will need to conduct a research includes time, money, manpower etc. As a student you might be given a limited time and budget as well as if you are writing the research paper individually then you will be the one responsible for all the tasks of the research. If you are writing the research paper as a group project than you can divide the tasks of the research. To ensure that the research paper will be completed in the given time period make sure that you have narrowed down your topic to the best of your efforts. A broad research topic can make the research process cumbersome and will only create confusion.

Regional topics are good to work on if they are about the region where you live otherwise it will be costly to conduct a research on that topic. Suppose you want to do a research on the contamination in the drinking water in your area: think about one, you will be able to collect the samples which in this case will be easy, two, you will have enough references to support your work. A recent problem can be investigated but that requires costly expenses because of less data availability. For example, you want to study about some recent NASA exploration project that is a significant topic but will be costly and data collection will be cumbersome.

#4. How

How will you collect data for this topic and is there sufficient data available so that you can do this study? For any study the researcher needs valid and reliable sources to collect data. You need to know about the sources that are available for your topic. The sources should be trustworthy and are ample enough to fulfill your requirement. In case you choose a highly significant topic but there are no sources available to collect data you are heading yourself in a big difficulty. Sometimes data is available or you can collect it but it is far away from your place, in a small study you cannot take the pain of reaching far places to collect data.

You should also consider that the data you will collect will be a valid one and prefer primary data if it is available. In case primary data collection is not possible due to the unavailability of sources than you can go for the secondary sources.

#5. What

What is the significance of your topic and is it significant enough to be undertaken? The topic should be a significant one that needs to be studied. There should be work done previously by other authors on that topic but it should not be one that has been so well-established that your research becomes of no value. It should also meet the expectations of your instructor and should be relevant to what your instructor perceives.  It should invite debate from other people like your classmates and the jury who is going to judge it. A very simple topic may not be worthy of research. Think about these and other concerns that will decide how worthy is the topic for your research.


  1. Lester, J., Writing Research Papers: A Complete Guide, Kansas State Teachers College, Scott, Foresman and Co, 1967, P-p-2-4



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One comment

  1. Choosing a topic for research work is a complex process. The teacher is primarily interested in whether you can analyze the thoughts of other people and put them together in a single idea. But if you write an advanced level of work, then you will need to be able to create your own arguments based on the ideas of other scientists. The most important thing is to come up with a research topic. The article describes good advice, but I would like to add some tips. 1. Take notes and use them when selecting articles. When you start making similar entries, you will immediately see where the themes diverge, and where they can be combined. 2. Use the computer to search for articles related to your topic. 3. It’s also important to choose a topic that you really like because you have to work hard on it. You can not do a really good job if you choose a topic that you hate. Use the information on the Internet and these advices, then you will be able to write a good research paper.

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