Find a research topic that you personally find interesting, a topic that is intriguing or even controversial. Why?
Oftentimes, some of my students choose just any topic for the sake of passing the assignment. Midway into their research work, they ask if they can change their topic. Most of them fail or get very low grades because they have little time left in the term to come up with a satisfactory research report. And so I emphasize that it's better to have many false starts at the beginning rather than being stuck with an ill-conceived topic in the middle of the term.
One trick is to start with something that you personally find interesting and to connect it with an idea in your field of study. You like playing online role-playing games, but you're a FoodTech major? Why not look into the eating habits and its nutritional effects on hardcore gamers (who usually play online games over an extended period)?
But what if you have an interesting topic to work on but aren't able to narrow and focus it into a research project you can do within a term? There's one tip from The Craft of Research (U of Chicago Press, 2008) that has worked with my students whenever they approach me to ask if their research topic is OK: "a topic is probably too broad if you can state it in four or five words" (Booth, Colomb, and Williams 39). Only when they have a topic statement with more than five words do I entertain their queries.
Otherwise, I ask them to do what the authors suggest as an exercise. I ask them to complete the following statement (Booth, Colomb, and Williams 48):
To narrow down and focus on my own research work, I used this formula:
And, more often than not, that does the trick. ✍
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