How to choose a topic in Research Paper Writing

Choosing your topic is a very important step in the research process. Without a well-defined topic, it will be difficult to construct a thesis statement, gather sources, write an outline, or complete a draft.

In most cases you will be given a subject, but this is not a topic. What’s the difference? Subjects are typically broad and general. Some examples of subjects are recycling, immigrant history, Shakespeare’s plays, or modern art. It would be rather hard to write papers (of reasonable length) on such broad subjects. If students are searching a websites for getting help of Research Paper Writing, So they can visit on - research paper writing service for getting help of research paper writing.

A topic is related to the subject but is quite specific. Topics will ask a question, show a cause and effect, or make a comparison (Rozakis, 1999). The following are some examples of topics:

Recycling—What impact do recycling programs have in urban environments?

Immigrant History—How does the immigrant experience in 2000 differ from the immigrant experience in 1900?

Shakespeare—How do the women characters in Shakespeare’s plays reflect the culture of the time period?

Modern Art—Is the quality of a work of modern art, as judged by art critics, related to the degree of life-adjustment difficulties of the artist?

As you can see in the above examples, the topics ask specific questions. Such questions—and their answers—form the basis of the thesis statement.

Sometimes you will be given a specific topic by your instructor. In such cases, you would not use this method to narrow down your topic from a broader subject.

So how does one make the leap from a broad subject to a specific topic? There are many different ways to make such a transition, and no single best approach. Perhaps most important is to select a topic that’s interesting or meaningful to you. Over the course of the semester or term, you will spend a lot of time gathering and reading materials and writing your paper. The entire process will be more enjoyable and productive if you actually like and value your topic.

Here are some specific ideas for selecting topics:

Look at course notes

Read back over your notes and texts from class. Was there something mentioned in class or your readings that you found really interesting?

Use a General Encyclopaedia

Use an encyclopaedia like Encyclopaedia Britannica to look up the general subject. Read the entry for the subject and explore some of the related entries. Not only will this give you a better understanding of the subject, but it also might spark some thoughts about possible topics. Use the suggested readings and bibliographies at the end of the encyclopaedia articles to find additional sources of information. These resources can be the beginning of the resource gathering process.

Use a Specialized Encyclopaedia

There are encyclopaedias on many specialized subjects. A librarian can help you locate one in your subject area. Thumbing through the entries may help you identify some areas of interest. Again, follow the references to related articles, and use the suggested readings and bibliographies to help you locate additional resources.


Brainstorming is a great way to discover a topic. At the top of the paper write down the general subject. Then spend a few minutes writing down ideas about the subject. Think about the types of questions the subject brings to mind. You should have a good start on a list of topics by the end of the time period.

Rely on a Friend

Sometimes it is difficult to think of a topic by yourself. Even when you do identify a topic, you may feel that although it is personally interesting, you cannot imagine that others would find it so. Friends can help you. Ask a friend to listen to your ideas and provide you with constructive criticism. Conversely, you could ask your friend to look at what you may consider to be a “boring” topic and tell you what they would write about instead. Sometimes a fresh perspective is all it takes to help you decide; you might even find that your topic isn’t that boring!

Explore Any Special Resources Held by Your Library

Libraries often maintain special collections on topics of interest (special collections can be based on the preferences of previous librarians, or individuals who made donations to the library).