It is common practice for professors to supply their students with a list of possible subjects on which to write research papers. Failing that, you will have free rein to choose your own topic. When making your selection you need to keep a few things in mind, such as which topic will be the most interesting for you to research and write about, which one can you develop fully given your own time constraints, which ones have not been heavily studied already, and which will be relatively easy to find materials on?
The research paper can make a valuable contribution to your course grade, so you should be prepared to spend time on it. It is always easier to spend time on a research paper subject you are interested in, and that is a bit challenging without seeming impossible.
There are a few sources for research paper subjects you can look through, including previously published papers, online journals and articles, or your course reading materials. A student can often get ideas from the alternative reading materials – ones that are on his or her course list but are not mandatory – supplied by the professor. Remember that your work does need to be original, so while you can get an idea from these sources you must not copy the actual works.
When you have an idea for your subject, consider the following:
- Do you understand the purpose of the assignment?
- Who will be interested in this research paper subject other than you?
- What is the scope of the topic – should you narrow or expand it?
- How much available material is there on this subject?
- What is the quality of the available material? If your sources are not credible then your professor will not accept your proposal.
- Is the subject matter appropriate for your studies?
- What sort of research will you need to conduct in order to write the paper?
- What will your thesis be? You must have a clear opinion on the issue you are writing about.
You may find it helpful to put down your ideas on the subject and discuss them with your professor or instructor. This way you can work out any potential problems before you begin work on the research paper, saving yourself time and hassle.
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