How to Select a Topic for Research?

Developing a good research topic is a critical skill. If you are lucky, your research guide might assign a topic, but you might just be asked to come up with it yourself. This post explores what a research student needs to keep in mind while selecting a topic.


A good topic may need to be specific and focused, to be interesting, yet comprehensive enough for you to find sufficient information.

Following the steps below might simplify the selection of a Topic:

1. Brainstorm:

Pick an interesting topic and look for opinions circulating about it. Are you intrigued or passionate about the topic? Are you interested in healthcare or science? Have you stumbled upon a new medicinal use of a plant or herb?

Apply the 5W (who, what, where, when, why), and 1H (how) approach popular with journalists, to the topic.

Who will benefit from this topic? Will your research impact a sizable audience?

What are the possibilities of the topic being of commercial value?

Where can you find sufficient information about it? Where can you find support to implement the plan?

When will it be relevant, is it too early or is the time right?

Why does it particularly interest you? Are you passionate about it?

How will you garner support and funds for it?


Once you are convinced about your reasons to pursue the topic, start reading.


2. Read up on the Topic:

Read to gather as much general information as possible. While this can help you understand the topic in greater detail, it will also help you identify commonly used keywords. Go through popular magazines, books, research papers and websites on the topic.

3. Narrowing the scope: 

of the topic is an essential step before you finalize the topic for research. It may not be feasible if the scope is too broad or too narrow. Below are a few ways in which you can refine the scope?

  1. By timeframe: What are the most severe drought conditions in the last ten years?
  2. By Geographical area: Which state has been worst hit by water scarcity?
  3. By discipline: How has the water shortage affected agri-business in the state?
  4. By population group: How has the lack of clean drinking water impacted the child mortality or BPL families?
  5. By Political angle: How has the government policies aided rainwater harvesting practices?

If the topic is a local issue and is very specific to a geography, there may not be information from global resources. Local newspaper and magazine articles will be the source apart from traditional methods of research, such as survey, one-on-one meetings & site visits be the option.

Likewise, if a topic is current, books or published journal articles may not be available.

If you are dealing with a topic concerning celebrities, you may be overwhelmed with too much information as everyone wants to write about them, even if it is superficial.

If you have difficulties or questions with narrowing the focus of your topic, discuss it with known experts on the topic or with your guide.


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