Part of the research paper writing process involves finding an angle or an approach that is interesting to both you and your readers. Students often have a hard time assessing just how manageable a subject is until they’ve already wasted considerable time.

Share these tips with your students for choosing a concise research topic that they can discuss thoroughly.

Choosing a topic

According to authors Campbell, Schultz Huxman, and Burkholder in their book The Rhetorical Act: Thinking, Speaking and Writing Critically, 5th Edition, it’s a good idea to choose a topic that you can relate to.

“Equally important for invention is your storehouse of knowledge (personal knowledge and received wisdom) and your repertoire of resources (rhetorical strategies) that you draw upon to select subject material and adapt in ways best suited to the audience and the occasion. […]

Speak and write from your own knowledge and experience! If you do, you will prepare with greater ease and confidence because you are
working from familiarity. You will have general knowledge against which you can test information from other sources.” (44)

Focusing your point

Usually, your instructor will assign a specific page length or word count for your research paper or final essay. If it’s a long assignment, you need to ensure you’ve chosen a subject that you can write about for many pages. If it’s shorter, you’ll need to make sure you can make your point cohesive in the allotted space.’s research paper tutorials recommend limiting your focus to a specific area of the topic–some aspect that you’ll enjoy writing about and your audience will enjoy reading. Try these hints from Questia:

“Are there certain controversies related to your topic that would be of interest to readers? Formulate questions that you would like to answer about your topic—ones that your readers also want answered. Your research project will not answer all the questions you raise about a topic. But choosing a few related questions will help you focus your topic.”

For more advice, visit Questia’s blog post, “Writing process tips: How to narrow your research paper ideas.”

Reference: Campbell, Karlyn Kohrs; Susan Schultz Huxman; Thomas A. Burkholder. The Rhetorical Act: Thinking, Speaking and Writing Critically, 5th Edition. 2015: Cengage Learning

What methods do you use for coming up with a good research paper topic? Share your ideas below.