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Research paper prompts: topic selection and analysis
Topic selection can be the difference between terrible, mediocre, or great research papers. But for many students, analyzing whether or not a topic is a good one can be difficult. Get ahead of the game with these simple prompts. They’ll help you analyze the topics that interest you in order to see whether or not they’re appropriate for a research paper.
Is there enough source material about the topic?
Before determining whether or not a topic is a good one, you’ll need to figure out something else first: whether or not it’s even viable to try and research it. The simplest way to do this is to run a few searches for related source material. Print out your results, because you’ll want to review them again for the next step in the analysis.
How divergent are the topics in the source material I’ve found?
Some topics aren’t suitable because there’s not enough research material. Other topics, however, are unsuitable because they’re too broad. One way to determine whether or not a topic is far too broad for your research paper is to examine the material available on it and see how many subtopics it covers. If it seems that the topic diverges into dozens of other subtopics, you’ve probably found something too broad.
Is there enough variety in the source material?
Just as a topic may be too broad, it can also be too narrow. When determining whether or not the topic was too broad, you looked at whether or not there was too much variety in the subtopics it diverged into. Now you’ll analyze the topic to see if there’s enough variety. This can be a bit more challenging, especially if it seems there’s plenty of material to choose from. Here’s what you should look for:
- Are almost all of the sources asking or answering the same basic question?
- Is the vast majority of the research on the topic very, very recent in nature?
- Are most of the sources from the same research institutions, or are the same authors’ names repeated over and over again?
If the above are true, it’s very likely your topic is, at least for the moment, too specific to yield enough variety in source material for you to use it as a research topic successfully. Consider broadening the topic until you are able to find enough variety in research material.