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PACE: Choosing your topic 
PACE Resources: Choosing Your Topic

Sometimes choosing your topic can be the hardest part of the whole research process.

Since the research you are doing now is more likely for a class than for your own personal information, it is important to understand the assignment before choosing what you are going to write about.

First, what type of paper is the professor asking you to write?

  • A report where you gather information together about a topic and then only write
        about what you found?
  • Do you need to give your opinion and then back it up with your research?
  • Is it a discussion paper where you need to present multiple sides of an issue?
  • Have you been asked to read a particular book or article, and discuss it in relation to
        something else?
  • Are you reviewing or critiquing something, such as a book, program, or even a job?
  • It can even be a combination of more than one type of paper.

    Next, what does the professor tell you about the topic of the paper?
    Does the professor tell you exactly what to write about,
    or is it completely open and up to you to choose?
    Can you choose anything in regards to a certain subject area?
    Are there suggestions or guidelines?


    After you know the type of paper that you are going to write and your options for your topic, it's time to choose what you want to research and write about.

    Tips for Choosing

  • Choose something that interests you. You're going to be devoting your time to this
        research, so why not be reading and learning about something you enjoy?
  • Is there a current topic that you've heard about? Have you read about something in the
        newspaper or seen something on television? Are there changes happening at work?
  • Scan through your textbook, or think of a topic from class. Textbooks can be full of
        ideas, not to mention background information that will be useful when you begin
        researching. Writing about a topic that you've learned about in class can be a great way
        to reflect the knowledge that you've gained.
  • Think about your other courses. Was there something you've learned about in another
        class that was particularly inspiring or interesting to you?
  • Talk to family, classmates, coworkers. The people in your life can be great sources of
        ideas and inspiration. Not only do they know what you are interested in, but they can
        also provide needed encouragement as you're researching.
  • Browse through subject specific reference books. If you have a general topic in mind
        but would like to know more about it, reference books are a great place to find ideas.
        Also, if you have a broad idea of what you're interested in, browsing through an
        encyclopedia about that subject can help you narrow it down.
  • Browse research topic books. These books are written to give people research ideas. 10,000 Ideas for Term Papers, Projects, Reports, and Speeches REF LB 1047.3 .L35 1998

    Click here for a list of subject specific resources for your degree.

    Go back to PACE Resources main page

    Move on to Develop your topic

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