Picking a topic for your research paper can be a little tricky. This page is meant to help you select something that will both interest you and be academically suitable.
First, let's define what a research paper is. Your instructor will be asking you to write a brief paper on some issue about which there is some level of disagreement, or lack of knowledge. You wouldn't write about a paper about the sun being hot, for example, because there is no reasonable disagreement about the topic. So you will need to select a topic in which you can do research and discuss in a relatively short number of pages. It will be important to make sure your topic is neither too broad for a short paper, nor too narrow, which will prevent you from finding good sources to support your thesis.
To start, you will need to know what your instructor is requesting in the terms of the assignment. The assignment may be completely open-ended, or there may be a given topic that you will work with.
Refining an Assigned Topic
For example: An instructor gives you an assignment to write about Edgar Allan Poe and how he relates to modern culture.
A good way to begin refining a topic like this is to think about the topic in a way that interests you and meets the parameters of the assignment. So let’s say you like detective shows. One possibility for a paper would be to talk about Poe’s detective C. Auguste Dupin and how he was a forerunner of the modern detective characters in your favorite shows. In this way, you are both keeping on-topic and relating it to something in which you have interest.
In all cases, making the topic relevant to your interests will make the process more enjoyable, and contribute to a stronger finished product!