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Choosing a Topic: Developing a Research Topic

This guide will help you get started on your research topic and help you visualize the research process.

Getting Started

When instructors assign a research paper, it can sometimes be hard to select a narrow topic. 

If your assignment is to focus on a broad topic, like EDUCATION, you may want to brainstorm ways that EDUCATION is classified. Some common topics regarding EDUCATION are:

  • Literacy

  • Education for ESL populations (students, communities, people, etc.)

  • value of preschool education

  • Higher Education

  • K-12 Education

  • International Education

Once you get a sense of what you want to focus on you can then begin researching on the specific topic. 

Making a list of the possible key terms will not only help you narrow down your search but it will help you save time.

Print Books on Selecting a Topic


Mapping Your Research Ideas

Online Sources for Choosing a Topic

Look at books and websites for paper topics: 

  • Subject Guide for Hot Topic Supersites

  • Research Guide on Paper Topics


  • General Paper Topics

  • Research Help: speech and term paper topics

  • Hot Paper Topics


  • Issues and Controversies

Concept Mapping

Concept Maps can be drawn by hand or typed on a word document. This one is hand drawn.

It is a hand drawn concept map with the topic of Human Trafficking. The illustrator describes this concept map as, " The topic, Human Trafficking, was placed in the middle. The sub-topics were placed around the main topic. The important information was placed around the subtopics to help remind me what to mention in my paper. My sub-topics were About, Child Trafficking, Human Rights and Types. I chose this way to conceptualize my ideas because it helps me expand my main topic better. This is because I can expand each topic and group my ideas. I can also see how to write my paper by what’s not specific to what is specific. The only challenge I faced was trying to realize what ideas go under which topic. It looks like it is a mess but the topic is a mess altogether."


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