Good topics for research papers are hard to come by

Writing a research paper is tricky, partly because it is so difficult to locate a topic that is interesting, appropriate for the course, and that can be adequately covered in the required length and amount of time. Don’t let the myriad of options bog you down, however. All you need are a few select criteria that will help guide your topic selection efforts and narrow down the scope of your paper.

Choose Something Relevant to the Class

No matter how far into the class you currently are, you should consider the whole syllabus when choosing a research paper topic. See which major areas are covered over the whole semester or quarter. Which topics are addressed for multiple weeks? Which areas are you expected to read a lot about, or which areas does your instructure lecture about at considerable length? Take these factors into account.

Choose a Topic You Have Learned A Lot About

If a topic or subfield is addressed at length in your class, it is a sign that it is either very important to the discipline, or it is a topic your instructor cares about very much and knows a lot about. Either way, you should limit your research paper topic options to ones that fall within those areas. Do not choose a topic that is only tangentially related to the class. It will be far more difficult to complete and earn a good grade on.

Choose a Topic You Enjoy

Research shows that people complete work more quickly and with a higher overall quality when they take an active interest in the task at hand. You should apply this fact to your own academic performance. Select a research paper topic that is important to you, emotionally or philosophically, or raise a research question that is something you frequently ask or ponder in your own life. Your enthusiasm will be palpable on the page, and you will earn a higher grade and complete your work faster if you are interested.

Choose a Topic You Understand

It can be tempting to select a challenging, novel topic for your research paper. It’s only natural to want to use a research paper assignment as an opportunity to learn something entirely new. However, this is a risky choice, because if you are writing about an unfamiliar topic, you may make mistakes or become discouraged. Instead, select a research paper topic you are comfortable with and can describe at great length from the outset. It will be easier to write a coherent, well-organized paper if you know a little bit of what you are talking about before research even begins. Play to your strengths and your grade will shine.


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