For conducting a systematic research, we need a topic. Choosing a topic is itself a research. We can not just go through or search all the books, blogs, libraries etc and start searching on anything. We need a specific area. We need a systematic approach to dig deep and produce standard and quality work. The first and foremost task of a researcher is to choose the right topic.
Finding the Right Topic
One of the most difficult (and, of course, the first) stages for a researcher is to find the right topic. Many students of research make a wrong choice of topic and hence arrive at poor quality of work. Research requires commitment and that is only possible if the researches find the right topic. The end result would be a work of value to the reader. It is, therefore, absolutely important to research the topic before your research and find the one which is most suitable for you to investigate.
Steps to find a Topic
Before digging deep into finding a topic, you must decide on the area which attracts your interest. The more is our level of interest in a topic, the more we will be able to produce a quality work. Here a couple of steps to help you finding a topic.
The first step is to list several topics of interest to start with. These can be as many areas of interest as possible. The more the areas of interest, the higher are chances that we will arrive at selecting the right topic. Do not get drawn by the fact what other students or researchers are interested in. Or do not get drawn by the teachers or professor’s interest. Go beyond their interest to a wider area of selection.
Once you have selected an area and listed all the possible topics, now is the time to narrow it down to a few that interest you more than others. Keep on narrowing down until you limit the number to two topics. It is the time to compare and contrast both the topics using all available resources. This will lead us to step 3.
In this step we have to decide which of the two topics to choose? We should look up our topics in whatever possible resources we have. After we have used the resources to compare and contrast the two topics, it is time to drop one and select the one which we think is of more interest to us and has more resources of information to produce a standard work. Here are few resources to obtain information or discuss our topics with.
Sources to Obtain Information
1. Library. Find our topics in libraries especially some of the comprehensive sources of knowledge like Encyclopaedia of Britannica etc. Also referring to a specialised Encyclopaedia like Encyclopaedia of Science, Encyclopaedia of Islam etc is a great help to understand the topic.
2. Internet. There is a lot of information on the internet. Many times the information on the internet is either inauthentic or not reliable. There are some sources, however, such as Google Scholars and other reliable sites will make a good source of information.
3. Journals and Books. It is also possible to find relevant journals and books both online and offline to help us get information ideas about our topic.
4. Blogs and sites which are specifically dedicated into certain areas and where users actively participate to post news, views, and other information.
5. Colleagues, teachers and other researchers
Although, you should go by your interest, it is still great to discuss you topics with experienced colleagues, your teachers or other researchers. It is best to make an abstract or summary of your topics before discussing it with others in order to arrive at the right conclusion.
Selecting a Focused Topic
One of the most common errors students of research make is they select a topic too broad for their work. For instance a topic “the effects of science on human life” is more than a library. It is a way too broad. Topics with limited number of words can be too broad. According to experts if a topic has less than 5 words, it is too broad to be considered a right topic. Once you have selected a topic, add words and phrases expressing actions or relationships. Adding action words or phrases will make the topic dynamic. A topic without action words or phrases is static.
Care must be taken not to narrow down the topic so much that it is difficult to find information on. So avoid too broad and too narrow.
From a Focused Topic to Questions
Research is not conducted simply to gather data for the sake of data. Our reader is not interested to go through dry figures of data. It must answer the questions to solve a problem. Real research is carried out to help answer questions to problems. It is, therefore, imperative to ask questions once you have reached at a focussed topic.
The Four W’s
Who, what, when and where are the four W’s we need to ask. Generally these questions should take us to the following three areas.
- Historical Background of the Topic
- Structure and Composition
Finding a right topic is, perhaps, the most important and the most difficult stage of conducting a research. Choosing a wrong topic can lead us to produce non-quality work. Avoid too broad topics and narrow down your areas of interest as much as possible. Be careful not to narrow it down up to the extent where it will be difficult to find data.
1. Look for the interest
2. List all possible areas
3. Narrow down the list to two or three
4. Choose the one which interests us more.
5. Find resources and research
6. The Four W’s
7. Asking Questions
8. Background, structure, composition and categorization