So, you have been given the task to write a research paper, and yet, they didn’t give you a question or topic to respond to. It would be a strange thing if a high school or university student managed to get through their education without writing a research paper. Research papers are one of the most common tasks set to encourage students to become familiar with the types of literature in the academic world.
Whether you are talking about high school level students looking at secondary sources or university students who are focusing more on primary sources, the task remains similar. The student needs to sift through a lot of papers and come out the other side with an opinion. Your institution wants you to engage with the body of academic works. Research papers are a great way to assess how someone is comprehending and interacting with the writings within a field. Yet, for all the sorting through papers and reading you can see ahead, it is often a challenge just to start.
- Field of Study but No Specific Topic
- Interesting Field but You Can’t Quite Formulate a Thesis
- When Starting from Scratch
- 10 Examples
Field of Study but No Specific Topic
Usually, students are given paper topics or at least broad areas from where to start their research, but sometimes they are given nothing at all. In the case of the former, maybe the prompt is simply the subject you are studying, and perhaps you have already started to read textbooks and original sources assigned by the tutor.
- Try asking yourself some questions?
- Are you curious about anything?
- Does something seem strange or counterintuitive? Or is there something you don’t agree with about the interpretations offered by the people who wrote the textbook. This doesn’t mean they are right or wrong, but following your curiosity to test the truth of something can be a great place to start.
Interesting Field but You Can’t Quite Formulate a Thesis
Start reading the papers which stand out to you and write short notes about anything that seems thought-provoking to remind you of your ideas and where to find the interesting parts of the text later. For some students, the thesis statement will start to form as they build on their research around the general topic.
Blank Paper: No Topic At All
On the other hand, perhaps you are doing a writing course, or you are studying English at the high school. If your task is merely to engage with the research paper genre, then your tutor is trying to set you up for success when you are given more specific tasks in the future. This is your opportunity to become more familiar with what is required from the writer of a research paper. Nonetheless, it can be disheartening when you are struggling to start the real work because you can’t get past that initial blank page. Here are some tips to fill it up.
When Starting from Scratch
- Firstly, don’t attempt to please anybody by trying to think of a really smart and original concept. That applies too much pressure. To develop your writing you want to practice exploring and writing, even about simple things, in an engaging way. Your process, progression of logic, and the support you afford your argument or analysis will be carried by your writing style. This is what your grader will be interested in. Especially, if they haven’t given you a specific field of study to explore.
- What are the things that have always been of interest to you? You are miles ahead if you can write about something you have some natural interest in. Your enthusiasm for a topic will keep you reading and asking the questions that further your research. Your interest in the topic will inevitably color your writing, and the paper will definitely stand out because of it. So, dream a little: brainstorm. Perhaps you have been curious about great battles of the past; the discoveries historians have made about Vikings, or the animal rights movement.
- If you are still stuck, look outside yourself. Search topics on Google or flick through some general interest books in your campus library. Of course, we don’t look to Google or Wikipedia for objective truth but mine it for inspiration. If you disagree with something you read, ask yourself why you disagree. If you find yourself distracted going from article to article, follow your distraction and discover new interests.
- If the curse of writer’s block has struck you and you just can’t think of anything, and nothing seems to spark your interest, well, you might need just to choose to become interested in someone else’s idea. Because there is no better way to start than by starting. In this article, we will look at two options to achieve this.
- Talk with your friends; maybe argue a little, in fun. Is there something that they believe that you can’t agree with? Could you research the idea to support your belief? Talk with your parents or watch some youtube videos. Can you support the ideas you are hearing? Can you challenge them? It is also possible for you to take a talking point, like the ‘Wage Gap’ and expand it into an opportunity for research. What has been written about it? When you find articles on the internet about it, look at the sources the writers refer to. Are they misrepresenting the source? If you read everything the various writers on the internet have read, would you come to the same conclusions? Papers don’t have to stand alone in the world. They are a part of the ongoing discussions that make up our academic flurry of discovery and analysis.
- When all your options seem to be drying up, consider just picking something at random. On Wikipedia, you can press a link requesting a random article. Maybe press it a few times and see if something takes your interest. No one would suggest that you use Wikipedia as a source, but Wikipedia does require their writers to reference their sources, and you can always follow them up and use them as a place to start. Another option might be to ask other people to write down some topics on a chart and then roll a dice to decide on one. You never know what new interest might open up to you if you try something new.
Asking for Help
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Most tutors will be happy to help students to come up with ideas if you see them well before the due date. Perhaps there are even special facilities on your campus where students can ask for learning support.
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Or, maybe an idea from this handful of suggestions might help.
10 Examples of Interesting Research Paper Topics
- Many students feel liberated when they are not forced to wear uniforms, however, there may yet be liberation in wearing school colors.
- When free speech becomes hate speech.
- When offense taken becomes offense given.
- The role of female characters in ancient literature can't be reduced to that of mere placeholders and status symbols for the stories of men to revolve around.
- Many compare the similar efficacy results achieved by psychotherapeutic and pharmacological treatments as a mark of the success of both. However, it might be argued that it is a sign of their shared failure and that any comparable amount of authoritative attention would have a similar effect.
- Studies of the environmental impact of internal combustion engines (ICEs) and the rapid increase in vehicle ownership throughout India and China show that no real benefit will be seen by reducing emissions until ICEs are abolished altogether.
- Never before have so many people studied at universities. Who benefits most from mass tertiary education?
- There are a lot of studies which demonstrate the dangers of drugs, but has prohibition reduced or increased the availability and cultural relevance of illicit drugs?
- Are agricultural subsidies helping rural communities, or do they just keep the biggest producers growing more than is required by markets while harming small or innovative farming businesses?
- Looking at the ways writers have discussed the execution of Socrates across millennia, we can see has the circumstances of his death and what it says about human nature, have sounded an alarm through history.
Essay Writing Advice From Our Professional Team
This article explains the process of finding a topic for your research paper. However, it doesn’t mention a common problem: narrowing that topic down. My advice for narrowing down your topic for a paper is to break it down by asking: who, what, when, where, why, and lastly how. After you’ve done that, see which question is most comprehensive. Then, narrow your topic down even more by asking questions like: “what was the challenge” “who was affected” “what was the outcome.” After you’ve asked these questions, your topic should be narrow enough to write about. Let me present you with an example. My topic is World War II. That’s too narrow! Whole novels have been written about World War II. Now, I can begin narrowing it down by asking “How” and “who was affected”. Now, my topic read something like: “How did WWII affect Sweden?” Now that’s a narrow topic! Best of luck with your research paper.