Academic Writing Lessons: Choosing Unique Research Paper Topics

One of the keys to writing a great research paper is developing a good and unique topic. You could say it’s a skill, and one that can be learned. Your professor could supply you with a prompt or give you a specific topic, but at the college and graduate levels it’s more likely you will have to choose a topic of your own. When deciding on a topic of interest to you, there are a few things you should consider in choosing one that is unique:

Brainstorm for Fresh Ideas

Start by choosing a research topic that interests you. If you need help figuring out what interests you, ask yourself questions like “Am I passionate about a current political or social controversy?” or “Is there an aspect of my current course I want to learn more about?” Questions like this will help you develop ideas that you can expand on and make entirely your own.

Choose a Topic that You Understand

Start by reading some general information about two or three topics you are considering. By reading broad summaries of each you can compare how your idea relates in a broad and narrow sense to the topic’s issues. Reading general summaries will also familiarize you with some of the key terms you will encounter in your research, giving you a glimpse of what you are expected to understand.

Make Sure There is Enough Material

Keep your topic manageable. Your research paper will be much more difficult to tackle if there isn’t enough information out there to read. There are several ways to narrow a topic while keeping it manageable, including making it geographical, cultural, set within a time frame, etc. Whatever you choose be sure that your topic is still something you want to study for several weeks.

Present Your Topic as a Focused Research Question

When developing a unique research topic you will often begin with just one word then take that word into a more focused interest that leads to relevant questioning. For instance you mays start with “Poverty” then consider issues of race within poverty. This will lead to several questions like “How does race affect poverty?” or “Is race an indicator of whether a person is more likely to live in poverty?” Both of these questions, though generic, lead to more questioning. And soon what started with just one word is closer to a fully developed unique topic.