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Getting Started: How to Choose a Topic

By: , Posted on: January 7, 2014

#StartYourResearch choosing research topicBefore we start diving into grant writing, getting organized, or even building a team, selecting a topic can be one of the most demanding tasks to some researchers.

You may ask yourself: Is my topic interesting enough? Is it too broad or is it too specific? All of these questions already have our heads spinning, how about yours? No need to worry. In this post we will give you a couple of tips on how to find that “holy grail” of a topic.


Tip 1 : Be Creative

“You define the question, you deliver the answer.”- Professor Patrick Dunleavy, London School of Economics

Before you start even thinking about finding a research topic, tell yourself this: my research is a reflection of me. What does that mean? That means creativity is key. This is your project. You are responsible for creating a question and delivering an answer, be creative and show the world what you have to offer.

Tip 2: Choose an Intellectual Problem/Paradox

Professor Patrick Dunleavy of the London School of Economics states that “choosing an intellectual problem/paradox” for your research paper would be one of the best approaches in crafting an insightful publication. According to the professor, your topic “needs to focus on a set of phenomena that asks for explanation, which you can express as a non-obvious puzzle and for which you can formulate an interesting and effective answer.”

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Tip 3: Choose a topic that is between unimaginable/overscaled questions and overused/underambition

Yes, we know researchers hope their publications are the ones that will leave an imprint in textbooks for generations, but be pragmatic. Choosing topics that are far overrreaching/too demanding can be more of a detriment to your publication than anything else. Be wise, don’t be too daring an don’t pick hard-research topics tha tmay be too hard to answer in a PhD.

On the other hand, we don’t want you to be the 1 millionth person writing about the same issue. We get it, you want to stick to a topic the world finds interesting and your idea can’t be too farfetched if someone already thought of it, right?

Tip 4: Be Obssessed

Obsession is a word that you need to internalize as a researcher. Love the topic that you choose because you will be eating, sleeping and breathing your research for a good number of years. Find a topic that you can’t seem to get enough of, so if you always wanted to expand that one research paper that you did in the past, do it.

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!



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