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Finding a Research Topic

Which step of the research process takes the most time?
A. Finding a topic
B. Researching a topic
C. Both

How did you answer the above question? Do you spend most of your efforts actually researching a topic, or do you spend a lot of time and energy finding a topic? Ideally, you’ll want to spend fairly equal amounts of effort on both. Finding an appropriate and manageable topic can sometimes be just as hard as researching a topic. A good research topic will have a body of related research which is accessible and manageable. Identifying a topic with these characteristics at the beginning of the research process will ultimately save you time. 

Finding a research topic that is interesting, relevant, feasible, and worthy of your time may take substantial effort so you should be prepared to invest your time accordingly. Considering your options, doing some background work on each option, and ultimately settling on a topic that is manageable will spare you many of the frustrations that come from attempting research on a topic that, for whatever reason, may not be appropriate.

Remember that as you are searching for a research topic you will need to be able to find enough information about your topic(s) in a book or scholarly journal. If you can only find information about your topic(s) in current event sources (newspapers, magazines, etc.) then the topic might be too new to have a large body of published scholarly information. If this is the case, you may want to reconsider the topic(s). 

So how do you find a research topic? Unfortunately there’s no directory of topics that you pick and choose from, but there are a few relatively easy techniques that you can use to find a relevant and manageable topic. A good starting point may be to view the Library's Resources for Finding a Research Topic workshop, on the Library Workshop Videos page. The following pages in this section offer various tips for where and how to locate resources to develop your research topic. 

For more information, see: Empire State College's Developing a Research Question 

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