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How to Choose a Topic for Your Research Paper

Posted in research

Student on laptop computer
By Courtcourtwest [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons
Hey Matadors! It’s the time of year you may be assigned a research paper or presentation. So let’s talk about how you can easily choose a topic for such an assignment. If you are able to select your topic, that’s great, because you can choose something of interest to you. However, even if you are able to select your own topic, it sometimes can be a challenge to come up with a topic that is manageable for the length of your specific paper or project.

When deciding upon a particular topic consider that manageable topics are not going to be too broad or too narrow. Manageable topics generally have two to three concepts. Examples of manageable topics include:

  • Do children sent to preschool start kindergarten with more highly developed language skills?
  • What impact has deregulation had on commercial airline safety?

On the other hand, topics with one concept are generally too broad. Examples of topics that are too broad are:

  • global warming
  • body image
  • food safety

When a topic idea is too broad, common ways to break down the idea include: place, time period, gender, age group, or ethnic group. A more manageable topic associated with the broad topic of global warming could be: Does global warming impact the drought in California?

Then there are instances when topics can be too narrow. Topics with more than three concepts are usually too narrow. Examples of these could be:

  • What are the 14 different disease-causing genes that were discovered in 2010?
  • Are genetically altered soybeans grown in Iowa safe for human or animal use?

In these instances, using less specificity will be necessary in order to develop a more manageable research topic. For more information about developing and choosing a research topic see our Research Strategies pages.