Term paper help, choosing a good topic

Term paper help: choosing a good topic

Oct 12, 2012
Whether you're constructing a term paper or a personal essay, the process of selecting a topic can be difficult, baffling and even burdensome at times. If you're writing a term paper, most likely your primary objectives are to inform and engage your audience. To achieve this objective you'll need a great topic on hand. In this article we will assist you by reviewing how to choose a topic initially and then how to refine that topic so that it works for you and your paper.

Choosing a good topic from scratch

If you're expected to identify a topic on your own with little or no direction from an instructor then the task may be a bit overwhelming at first. When researching there are so many different categories to choose, from and if you are like most people you want your research to standout, make a point or simply be well worth the readers time. So there may be a bit of anxiety present. The good news is that there are many approaches to selecting a compelling research topic, some of those approaches are listed below.


Brainstorming is used frequently and may be the #1 method of choosing a topic. Its a popular prewriting technique used by students and writers alike. The process is simple. You want to think through or brainstorm a list of potential research topics and allow each idea you come up with to guide you to another idea.
For example, if you start jotting down ideas and come up with recreational activities, this subject alone is too broad for a term paper but the idea may initiate other concepts such as; outdoor recreation and the average citizen, how active people are in general, recreation and children, the quality of local parks and facilities, and so on. Simply by brainstorming, allowing one idea to lead to another, you can identify several potential topics for exploration.
*Keep in mind that topics suggested are not yet term-paper ready. More refining and thesis development is required.

Identifying personal interest and concerns

Most likely you will be spending a lot of time either online or in the library gathering information and conducting a great amount of research on your topic-so its wise to choose a topic that will sustain your interest. Additionally, you may also want to look at something that you are passionate or driven about, such as a social problem, (for example, the working poor in Western societies) that you would find satisfying to investigate or examine.
Likewise, "you-topics" may be useful to delve into as they are easy to determine and of a great interest to the writer-which is you! "You-topics" include issues relevant to your experiences, culture and background. For example, if you're parents are from two different racial backgrounds you may decide to study relationships and families similar to your own. The idea is that these topics are familiar and close to home so they should be easy for you to develop and interesting to research.

Other popular techniques

  1. News and magazine headlines

    Scanning headlines is a good means of acquiring appealing and thoughtful topics to research. In a sense, much of the work has already been done. This is because chances are if topics discussed were not interesting then they would have never been selected for a story coverage.
  2. Controversial issues

    Controversial topics are always interesting and challenging to research because they "strike a cord" with us. And often times there is also a lot of information available on these topics, from case studies to personal essays. Examples of a controversial topics would be religion in public schools or interracial adoption.

Narrowing down your topic

Research topics are usually in need of a lot of narrowing and fine tuning. Even after you start writing your paper you may find yourself slightly adjusting your topic. Below you will find some helpful tips to guide you in effectively narrowing things down.
  1. Conduct basic or preliminary research

    This step does not involve any heavy hours of studying or researching. You simply would take your topic or subject manner and begin doing light or casual research either online or with library references. By reading the article topics, keywords, and subtopics you should eventually get a feel for what needs to be studied further on the topic or what would be of interest to you from the information you've gathered thus far.
  2. Focus on one aspect of the topic

    This method will give your topic depth and personality. For example, you can take a broad topic such as anorexia nervosa and women and refine it by focusing on either a) a specific age group, race or ethnicity b) a particular geographic location c) or a definite time frame. So if we were to select "a" an example of a refined topic would be as follows; Anorexia nervosa and senior citizens. This topic can be also further refined to a specific location but since the literature on the topic is likely already limited it may be best to keep it as is.
  3. Looping

    In this process you would write freely about the topic that you've selected and then circle the main idea or most important keyword found in your freewriting. Afterwards you would freewrite about the circled selection and continue in this manner until you identify a polished and suitable topic for research.
For example, if your major topic is private schools, you would start off by freewriting about private schools; "Private schools are schools that are privately funded by tuition or other sources. Students in private schools usually score better on standardized test because of various factors." Here you may opt to circle a number of keywords. If you were to circle "factors" for example, you would then begin writing about which factors may influence standardized test scores. Then continue in this fashion until an appropriate research topic is obtained.
After you've selected and narrowed down your topic you should check for a few 'topic-quality' concerns to ensure that you have a suitable subject for your term paper. (a) Is your research topic manageable and realistic? (b) Are the sources you need available and accessible to you? (d) Can your topic be formed into a workable thesis statement? (e) If done for an assignment, did you thoroughly read all of the instructions and does your topic meet the instructor's criteria?
Hopefully after utilizing some of the above methods and strategies as well as the questions noted for quality assurance your road to paper formulation and construction will be an easy one.
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