How to choose the best topic for your research
In this article, we will take a look at some of the techniques that researchers use to narrow down or specify their chosen research topic.
One of the first methods that students and researchers employ when considering which research topic to pursue is brainstorming, also known as mind mapping. This process can take on a note form, or it could be a recorded conversation between peers, experts, and colleagues, much like a ‘roundtable discussion.’
Whether it be history, religion, planetary physics, sustainability, or psychology, generally speaking, the brainstorming process starts with a focus on the most basic ideas surrounding the subject.
Under each of subject heading, students and researchers then narrow down their chosen research topic to the more niche, underlying themes. For example, if the subject is sustainability, we can investigate areas such as renewable energy, climate change, fossil fuels, etc.
Once the researcher has built a similar list, they can then look at even more specific research terminology.
Choose a topic that you are interested in
While choosing a research topic is no easy feat, there are many strategies you can put in place to help you choose the best one. First of all, choose a topic that you like; preferably something that takes your interest.
If you find a particular topic stimulating, conducts some research on it and learn even more! Further, if you have decided on a broad subject that interests you, the next step is to narrow it down to limit the scope of your topic.
Narrowing down the research topic can be done with extra reading. Look at other researchers in your field and see if you can spot any under-researched topics in the body of existing literature. You can also review your own research, previous notes, and the collection of literature you’ve gathered thus far—perhaps you will uncover details that you hadn’t thought about recently.
Moreover, you can always talk to your colleagues and peers about what you’re thinking about researching.
Remember the following five questions:
- Why did you choose this specific topic?
- Who publishes information about it?
- What are the primary research questions?
- Where is the topic relevant in the world globally or locally who is affected?
- When was this topic important? Does it still have any relevance or is it obsolete?
In addition to asking yourself the above five questions and narrowing down your research topic, there are some other ways you can choose the best topic for your research:
- Specify the research topic by focusing on a particular study population. Consider criteria such as gender, age, ethnicity, professional, income, education, etc.
- Think about whether your research topic is relevant today. Does it spark people’s opinions on the internet and are people talking about it in a particular context?
- Narrow down your search topic to a particular location. So, for example, if you’re talking about architecture, why not narrow down the research topic to something like, “Contemporary Architecture in Saudi Arabia.”
- Consider whether your research topic is going to focus on the present or a specific time period in the past. For example, has a significant event had a consequence on the future? For instance, the COVID-19 pandemic has lots of consequences that we are experiencing today in areas including the economy, society, healthcare, civil liberties, etc.
- You could look at the causes and effects of research topics the likes of education, unemployment, or employment to generate a research question such as: Are employers considering graduates’ credentials, or are do they place a greater value on professional experience?
Narrow your topic to something manageable
Once you have chosen your research topic, it will need to be refined in order to not be too broad. Doing so will limit the scope of the research so that the body of research is not overloaded with irrelevant literature and to allow the researcher to test their hypotheses and research questions with the most appropriate and effective research tools. Less is more…
Define Your Topic as a Question
Once you’ve narrowed down the research topic, you’ll need to make it more specific. You shouldn’t try to reword it just so that it fits into a question form.
For example, if your research topic focuses on “the influence of technology on electronic music today,” then you could rephrase the research question to something like, “How has technology impacted electronic music production methods in the 2020s?”
In this article, we looked at the importance of choosing a research topic and the ways it can be narrowed down, which is essential for several reasons. We also learned that research topics need to be explored in depth, but the research should aim to be far more specific than broad in scope. Reshaping your research to focus on one highly specific topic will allow you to conduct targeted research and determine the methods and path your research will take in the long-run.