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3 Important Things to Consider When Selecting Your Research Topic
In this blog, we discuss 3 areas of focus that are important for researchers to consider when selecting their research topic(s). The following article was written by a 3rd year PhD student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, in the Sociology department, Blair Harrington:
1. Choose something that interests you
I cannot stress this point enough: research takes a long time, often much more time than you expect it will, so do not choose a topic or jump onto someone’s research project unless you are truly interested in the subject matter. Investigating something that does not excite you makes the research process far more arduous, and you will likely regret it. In addition to being time-consuming, research can also be frustrating as you usually run into unforeseen obstacles. Staying motivated is difficult enough when the topic is something you are really passionate about.
2. Choose a topic that is feasible
There are many great topics out there, but some topics are more feasible than others. For instance, if you want to conclusively prove or disprove extraterrestrial life or uncover the top secrets of the FBI, you are probably not going to have much luck. It may sound intuitive, but you need to make sure that your topic is something that you can actuallly research. Since every researcher has different limitations or restrictions, the question of feasibility often depends on the individual researcher, but some questions you can ask yourself are:
- Do you have the budget needed to conduct this research?
- Do you have the know-how needed to conduct this research?
- Do you have access or can you obtain access to whatever it is you want to research?
- Is the content robust enough to be considered completely trustworthy?
- Speaking to “choosing something that interests you,” do you have the time needed to devote to this research?
3. Choose a topic that is “research-worthy”
Most people that begin research have an end goal in mind. Being an academic, my goal is to get my research published. Research is typically written for an audience, whether it be a select group of individuals or broader population, and you have to keep this audience in mind as you select your research topic. You may be very interested in a topic, but if it does not meet your intended audience’s needs, your end goal, then it is probably not a good topic to select. Moreover, it will be extremely difficult to receive funding for research that does not generate others’ interest.
These 3 points should be viewed as helpful guidelines rather than roadblocks. There are so many varying interests and areas to research that it should not be too difficult to find a topic that interests you, is feasible and is also “research-worthy” in the eyes of your intended audience. Good luck, fellow researchers!
For more reading and advice on how to choose a research topic, check out the following articles:
- Getting Started: How to Choose a Research Topic
- Navigating the Research Process with TED speaker Uri Alon
Did these tips help? Still have questions or want to share your tips and ideas with other researchers? Use hashtag #StartYourResearch on Twitter and Facebook to join the discussion and engage with our community!