They say that the only thing permanent in the world is change. The same is true with research and information. In today’s age, there will always be new information that scientists and researchers discover, as we get to know more about the world, including many of its unknown mysteries. Hence, many individuals invest both time and money dedicated to exploring the unknown and prove what was once just an abstract concept or theory.
This is the reason why research as a field is an important aspect of everyday life. People will always ask the question… Why is academic research important? Your complete guide explains the main purpose of research as well as its benefits. According to the experts from artifacts.ai, the primary objective of the research is to inform action, to prove a theory, and contribute to developing knowledge in a field or study. The importance of following the scientific method in any research initiative is also emphasized. In this way, personal biases of researchers can be reduced and objectivity can be highlighted. This is to ensure that research is accurate, reliable, and valid.
Benefits of research
- To build knowledge and facilitate learning
- To understand issues and increase public awareness
- An aid to business success
- A way to prove lies and to support truths
- Means to find, gauge, and seize opportunities
- A way to love reading, writing, analyzing, and sharing valuable information
- Nourishment and exercise for the mind
Even though there are plenty of benefits of research, the world of investigation and exploration, especially to newbie and budding researchers is definitely no walk in the park. The first step, which is the election of the research topic, can be the most difficult and frustrating part of the research process. This article discusses seven (7) steps on selecting your research topic.
Seven (7) steps in selecting your research topic:
Step 1: Brainstorm for ideas
Take a look at the topics that interest you, including topics you would most commonly search or read about, and list them all down. It is easier for researchers to write something about the areas that they are genuinely interested and passionate in.
In addition, you can also use the following questions to brainstorm for ideas to choose your research topic.
- Do you have a strong opinion on a current social or political controversy?
- Did you read or see a news story recently that has piqued your interest or made you angry or anxious?
- Do you have a personal issue, problem or interest that you would like to know more about?
- Do you have a research paper due for a class this semester?
- Is there an aspect of a class that you are interested in learning more about?
Write down any keywords or concepts that may be of interest to you. Could these terms be used to help form a more focused research topic? Make sure that you are also aware of overused ideas when deciding a topic. You may wish to avoid topics such as, abortion, gun control, teen pregnancy, or suicide unless you feel you have a unique approach to the topic. If you have any additional questions, ask your instructor for ideas if you feel you are stuck or need additional guidance.
Step 2: Read General Background Information
Here are some tips on how to search for and read general background information:
- Read general articles about the top two (2) or three (3) topics you are considering. Reading a broad summary enables you to get an overview of the topic and see how your idea relates to broader, narrower, and related issues. It also provides a great source for finding words commonly used to describe the topic. These keywords may be very useful to your later research. If you cannot find an article on your topic, try searching for broader terminologies.
- There are some topics that may be too specific and can only be covered in local articles, newsletters, and newsprints. It is best to check out your community library if you would want to focus on these local issues.
- Use web search engines like Google and Bing, which are currently considered to be the two (2) of the best search engines to find web sites on the topic.
Step 3: Focus on Your Topic
A topic will be very difficult to research if it is too broad or narrow. One way to narrow a broad topic such as “the environment” is to limit your topic. Some common ways to limit a topic are:
- By geographical area
- By culture
- By timeframe
- By discipline
- By population group
Enumerated below are some common pitfalls in narrowing down research topics that researchers should avoid:
- Locally confined
There are some topics that may be too specific and can only be covered in local articles, newsletters, and newsprints. Remember that it is quite difficult to build on the review of related literature if the topic you chose would only pertain to local issues with limited resources available.
If the topic that you chose is very recent, chances are there are few related kinds of research or literature to substantiate your study. Though there is an advantage of the novelty of your research topic, you might have a difficult time proving your theories because of the lack of validation and supporting theories and information.
- Broadly interdisciplinary
Choosing a topic that is broadly interdisciplinary can also be difficult because you can be overwhelmed with superficial information that is neither reliable nor valid. Common examples would include culture and politics.
You will only find very popular articles about some topics such as sports figures and high-profile celebrities and musicians.
Step 4: Be Flexible
The research process is an often arduous task and more often than not, there will be many revisions and changes even to your research title and topic! In fact, it is quite common to modify your topic during the research process. You can never be sure of what you may find. You may find too much and need to narrow your focus, or too little and need to broaden your focus. This is a normal part of the research process. When researching, you may not wish to change your topic, but you may decide that some other aspect of the topic is more interesting or manageable.
Keep in mind the assigned length of the research paper, project, bibliography or other research assignments. Be aware of the depth of coverage needed and the due date. These important factors may help you decide how much and when you will modify your topic. Your instructor will probably provide specific requirements, if not the table below may provide a rough guide:
|Assigned Length of Research Paper or Project||Suggested guidelines for approximate number and types of sources needed|
|1 to 2 page paper||2 to 3 magazine articles or Web sites|
|3 to 5 page paper||4 to 8 items, including book, articles (scholarly and/or popular) and Web sites|
|Annotated Bibliography||6 to 15 items including books, scholarly articles, Web sites and other items|
|10 to 15 page research paper||12 to 20 items, including books, scholarly articles, web sites and other items|
Step 5: Define Your Topic as a Focused Research Question
You will often begin with a word and then develop a more focused interest in an aspect of something relating to that word, then begin to have questions about the topic.
Here are the characteristics of good research questions each researcher should know and apply:
- Clear: it provides enough specifics that one’s audience can easily understand its purpose without needing an additional explanation.
- Focused: it is narrow enough that it can be answered thoroughly in the space the writing task allows.
- Concise: it is expressed in the fewest possible words.
- Complex: it is not answerable with a simple “yes” or “no,” but rather requires synthesis and analysis of ideas and sources prior to the composition of an answer.
- Arguable: its potential answers are open to debate rather than accepted facts.
Here are also helpful questions you can ask yourself to evaluate the effectiveness of your research questions:
- Is your research question clear? With so much research available on any given topic, research questions must be as clear as possible in order to be effective in helping the writer direct his or her research.
- Is your research question focused? Research questions must be specific enough to be well covered in the space available.
- Is your research question complex? Research questions should not be answered with a simple “yes” or “no” or by easily-found facts. They should, instead, require both research and analysis on the part of the writer. They often begin with “How” or “Why.”
Step 6: Research and Read More About Your Topic
Use the keywords you have gathered to research in the catalog, article databases, and Internet search engines. Find more information to help you answer your research question.
You will need to do some research and reading before you select your final topic. Can you find enough information to answer your research question? Remember, selecting a topic is an important and complex part of the research process.
Here are ideas on where to research and read more about your research topic:
- The Internet
The Internet has changed everything about how we research papers. From your own home or your cubicle at the library, you can learn almost anything. Try different keywords when Googling or using other search engines, and remember to check out podcasts, forums, even YouTube. It’s important to keep a few things in mind:
- Not everything you read on the Internet is accurate or true.
- Many pages are not dated. You may have to dig deeper to learn how current the info is.
- Wikipedia is not always reliable information. Use it, but double-check your information.
- Don’t rely solely on the Internet. The information you learn using the other nine options here might surprise you.
Libraries are still one of the very best places to learn about anything. Librarians would always help you find the information you need, and many have specialties that may relate to your topic.
Books are classic go-to’s for researchers. As a researcher, you have to make sure that you consider all kinds of books from dictionaries (for your operational definitions!) to biographies.
Newspapers are the perfect source for current events and up-to-the-minute news. Most libraries subscribe to all the top national papers, and many papers are available in online editions. Vintage newspapers can also be a wonderful source of history.
Magazines are another source for both current and historic news. Magazine articles are generally more creative and reflective than newspaper articles, adding a dimension of emotion and/or opinion to your paper.
- Government Offices
Your local government offices can be a very useful source of historical data. Much of it is a matter of public record and available for the asking.
- Local Subject Matter Experts (SMEs)
Interviewing a local expert in your topic is one of the very best ways of getting both knowledge and interesting quotes.
Step 7: Formulate a Thesis Statement
Write your topic as a thesis statement. This may be the answer to your research question and/or a way to clearly state the purpose of your research. Your thesis statement will usually be one or two sentences that state precisely what is to be answered, proven, or what you will inform your audience about your topic. The development of a thesis assumes there is sufficient evidence to support the thesis statement.
The title of your paper may not be exactly the same as your research question or your thesis statement, but the title should clearly convey the focus, purpose, and meaning of your research.
The steps enumerated above will surely help newbie researchers in passing through the first hurdle of choosing their research topic. By following the steps, any researcher can easily choose a topic of his or her interest and develop it into a full-blown thesis paper.