Choosing a Topic

Sometimes when you are assigned to write a research paper, your teacher selects the topic. Other times, your teacher may provide a list of topics from which you are to choose one. In some cases, selecting a topic is left entirely up to you. When this is the case, here are some guidelines to help you select an appropriate topic.

  • Choose a topic that fits your interests and knowledge. You will be more motivated to write your paper if you do this.
  • Be certain that your topic is consistent with your assignment. For example, if the assignment is to write a paper dealing with a social issue, the topic “Important Inventions of the Twentieth Century” is not appropriate because it deals with a technical subject, not a social issue.
  • Choose a topic that is not too broad. For example, there are thousands of articles and books about the Civil War. The topic “The Civil War” is too broad. You won’t be able to organize the abundance of information into a cohesive paper.
  • Choose a topic that is not too narrow. For example, getting back to the Civil War, the topic “The Role of Nurses during the Battle of Gettysburg” is too specific. You will not be able to find enough information to write your paper. “The Role of Nurses in the Civil War” would be a suitable topic. You would be able to find enough information about this broader topic to write your paper, but you would not be overwhelmed by too much information.
  • Try to choose a topic that is creative. For example, “The Moon Landing” is a common topic about space exploration. Your teacher may be tired of reading about this topic. The topic “Should We Spend More Money on Space Exploration?” is more creative, and is likely to capture your teacher’s interest.
  • Avoid topics that are difficult to express in writing. For example, it is hard to put the qualities of Mozart’s symphonies in words. Similarly, it would be difficult to write about the beauty of the painting, Mona Lisa. In general, music and art should be avoided as sources of topics.
  • Consider the length of the paper you are required to write. Teachers often specify the length of the paper you are to write. Be sure to choose a topic that will allow you to write a paper that will fit within the required length.

Following these guidelines will help you with the first step in writing a research paper – choosing an appropriate topic.