The first and most crucial stage in preparing a research paper is choosing a research topic. It is not an easy task to get ideas for research topic. You could say that by choosing a good topic, you have already completed half of your work. The advice that follows will help you choose and narrow down a topic for your research paper.
The key question in getting ideas for research topic: Which research topic is the most suitable for you?
When thinking about this, it is advised that you completely analyze the academic relevance of the study topic itself as well as your personal research interests and capabilities. Naturally, your tutor or other lecturers will provide you with some insights towards the academic value of the research topic itself, such as topics they believe have in-depth research relevance or cutting-edge topics that are unique. However, in some circumstances, other people—including your supervisor—might think that the research topic you choose lacks any research value. At this time, be sure to carefully weigh your options and ideas for research topic.
Think about your research interests
Please keep your research interests in mind while you brainstorm ideas for research topic. You find some research topics to be incredibly interesting even if others find them to be rather dull. Academic research is frequently labor- and time-intensive, therefore you will only be able to finish it if you are consistently interested in the topic.
Before starting your topic selection, take some time to recall the knowledge content you learned in class. Which classes are you most looking forward to, and which ones make you want to fall asleep as soon as you arrive at class? You can go over the lecture notes, reflect on what you learnt in class, or read the passages that interest you. At the same time, you can browse important academic journals in the subject field, such as checking the catalog of each issue in the past two years, to see if there are any ideas for research topic that arouse your interest. It’s possible that you have a wide range of interests but are unaware of them.
Write down whatever subject you can, want to study, or believe you might be interested in, and keep a journal of any ideas you think are worthwhile. Because ideas often come to you in an instant, you may desire to recollect something in the past but find it difficult to do so later on. You can compare all the topics you have recorded to see which topic is more attractive, which topic is more feasible, and which topic has more academic value. Through comprehensive comparison, preliminarily select one or several research topics that you think you want to engage in.
Starting from your research ability, consider which research you are more suitable for
Explore your research subject
Exploration is a rather challenging but very important research task. Exploration is better suited for a brand-new study area or topic, but it does not mean it lacks a scientific foundation. Any study is built on the research of predecessors or peers, including disruptive research. For instance, you can be curious about how Beijing is growing its creative sector and try to establish plans or make useful recommendations. This could be considered a difficult exploratory research project.
You can only offer your own advice after conducting extensive investigation because there are no pre-made solutions. However, you can use the development experiences of other cities, such as the tactics used by cities like London or New York to build their creative industries, as a reference during the study process.
Describe your research subject
In many disciplines, the primary goal of sociological study is to describe conditions and events. A thorough and methodical analysis of the publishing history of academic journals prior to the 19th century, for instance, can be your goal if you are particularly interested in the early academic journals’ publishing process. Many qualitative studies’ main goal is to describe. For instance, anthropology’s ethnography aims to explain in depth the distinctive culture of some pre-civilized tribes. However, typically research activities go beyond descriptions and frequently also delve into the deeper meanings and purposes of objects.
Explain your research subject
If description resolves the “what it is” issue, then justification resolves the “why it is” one. You might, for instance, be curious about the phenomenon of media entertainment and try to analyze and explain why it happens. You are currently researching interpretation, and you can examine it from global and micro perspectives as well as from the political, economic, cultural, and a variety of other angles. It is frequently required to take into account some significant factors, such as gender, educational attainment, political inclination, etc., while interpreting a particular phenomenon.
The three aforementioned aspects are not mutually exclusive from the perspective of practical research, and frequently include both. However, for a somewhat autonomous research effort, it is always possible to determine if it is exploratory, descriptive, or explanatory. Depending on your skills and area of expertise, you can opt to conduct research for a variety of reasons.
Determine whether your ideas for research topic are feasible
The viability of a research topic frequently depends on the study topic itself and other external variables, in addition to your research interests and research skills. Regarding the research topic itself, it is suggested that no matter which field you choose, or which topic you choose, the research object must be “small”. For example, for research on history, you should try to narrow the scope and time period of your research. For example, some students may decide to write “Research on European History”. However, this topic is obviously not feasible.
For historical research, you can limit it from the two perspectives of region and time period. For example, narrow the topic to “History of Post-War Europe” so that the topic will be greatly reduced. Of course, you can continue to narrow the topic, such as “Role of Women in Post-War Netherlands”. This is the process of defining the object of study.
Writing a research paper differs from writing a monograph or a textbook, it calls for a distinct study object and research question. Rather than being comprehensive like a textbook, the research paper must always center on this subject.
Of course, there are constraints in research conditions and research foundations in addition to the complexity of the study issue itself. For instance, a questionnaire survey may be necessary for an empirical investigation. As a typical student, you might not have the personnel, supplies, or funding to conduct a comprehensive questionnaire survey, yet a small-sample questionnaire survey cannot adequately support the subject you wish to investigate. Do you have enough time to complete this survey given that it takes a while to conduct a questionnaire survey? If you do not have enough time, you should now assess whether your chosen research topic has to be revised or scaled back.
Keep in touch with people, and ask your mentors for guidance frequently
It is very important to maintain communication with others, especially your supervisor or mentor, during the process of getting ideas for research topic. From all aspects, your mentor will give you a lot of advice. Your mentor will typically be very critical, and be able to provide advice and help based on his research experience, including methodological flaws, how to obtain relevant literature and so on.
In short, you should exchange ideas with your mentor early in the thought process, meet with your mentor regularly, and feel free to contact your mentor once you have a new approach. Please note that in many cases, you need to take the initiative yourself. As long as you take the initiative to contact your mentor, your mentor has no reason to reject you.
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