Research Topics

27.04.20 Research topic Time to read: 6min

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Definition: Research Topics

A research topic is the subject or issue that forms the basis of a research paper. It is a well-defined subject the researcher is interested in. While it can be phrased as a question, you are not required to do so. The research then addresses the question. It can also be phrased both as a research question and a hypothesis.

The purpose of this article is to help you understand what research topics are and how they are used to conduct good research. It covers the characteristics of good research topics and provides information on and techniques for coming up with good research topics. The importance of research topics in academic writing is explained and some examples of research topics are listed.

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Rational thinking and creative techniques are two key methods you can use to generate research ideas. You can use either of the techniques, or you can try both techniques and then decide which one you find more useful for your research. Both concepts are further discussed later in this article.

Tip: Keep in mind that you’ll need to create research questions based on your topic later on. It’s ok to begin with vague ideas, but later on you need to focus on a specific area of a topic.

The Delphi technique is an approach that many students have found useful for refining their research ideas. Usually, a number of people who are interested in the research are assembled to help generate and select more refined research topics. The next step will be to refine your ideas into a research question. This will require you to conduct more research on topics or issues that you found interesting during the research topic deciding phase.

A research proposal consists of an appropriate title that mirrors the content of the proposal; a background to justify the need for the research; a statement on what the research is meant to achieve. A section should be dedicated to the methods that will be adopted in order to achieve the research objectives within the expected timeframe. A section on resource considerations will help convince the reader about the feasibility of the research. This should be followed by a list of references.

Writing helps organize our ideas into coherent statements. For inspiration, check out some research proposal examples. The draft proposal should be discussed with your thesis supervisor or teaching assistant, who can advise you on how the proposal might be amended if necessary, so that the research can be completed within the proposed timeframe. This is of particular importance if the proposal has to be presented for funding or to an academic research committee for approval.

You’re the one who has to write the research paper or thesis, so it’s vital that YOU are interested in the topic that you’re researching. Your research topic shouldn’t be too vague. But in saying that, you also need to ensure that you’re able to write about your topic within the time frame provided. You need to be able to formulate your topic into a research question and a thesis statement later on.

Finding Research Topics

If done using a systematic approach, finding research topics can be interesting. A range of techniques involving rational as well as creative thinking are used to find a research topic.


This is a problem-solving technique which generates best results when carried out as a group, but it can also be done by an individual. Find a quiet place to work and write down a problem related to your lectures or curriculum that interests you and of which you have some prior knowledge.

If you are working in a group, members can make suggestions regarding the problem. Make a note of all the suggestions and include all contributions, however wild they may be. Review each of the suggestions with your group and select the ones that most appeal to you. You may arrange discussing these suggestions with your thesis supervisor or the teaching assistant in charge of your project if needed.

Inspiration from your teachers

Project leaders, teaching assistants, professional groups and practitioners in your field will often have project ideas they are happy to share. They might come up with good research topics; just be sure to document the ideas discussed so that you can remember to further explore them on your own.

Literature search

Articles, reports in academic journals and books are all useful sources of research topics. Review articles in particular often indicate areas in which more research may be required. Most recently published reports usually contain recommendations which can form the basis of further research, and books contain an overview of research already undertaken, in addition to suggesting new areas to explore for further research.

Relevance trees

This technique involves generating topics on the basis of a broad concept. Each of these topics constitutes an independent branch which can yield sub-branches. You can review these sub-branches and combine some of them to come up with new research topics. Your project supervisor or teaching assistant may be of help in selecting a final topic from the shortlisted ones if you cannot narrow your choice down to one topic.

Looking inwards

Another way of finding a research topic is to review the assignments you have already completed and select the ones you received good grades in. These are the ones in which you are already knowledgeable. They will provide you with possibilities for further research.

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Defining Good Research Topics

A good research topic should have well defined objectives. Selecting a research topic which you will be interested in for the entire research duration is vital. If you have only a vague interest in the topic, it will be difficult to excel on such a topic. Therefore, you should have a genuine interest in the research topic you have chosen.

Make sure you possess the required skills and resources, or that you can develop the capability that is necessary to research the topic within the given timeframe. You should also be certain that you can access the data you will need to collect in the course of the research. Your research topic should be one you are familiar with and in which you have the capacity to produce a well-written final research report.

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TIP: Always use transition words to properly connect the sentences and paragraphs in your thesis or essay.

 Academic Writing Research Topics

Academic writing is a style of expression that defines the intellectual boundaries of a discipline. It focuses on a research problem and conveys an accepted interpretation of concepts or complex ideas. Research topics are germane to academic writing because they proffer rigorous arguments that can convince a reader to reconsider previously accepted position on a topic.

Examples of Research Topics

Previous research topics can serve as sources of inspiration for finding new research topics. Some examples of different research topics include:
• Media and communications research paper topics
• Environmental research paper topics
• Business research paper topics

Depending on your field of study, looking at past projects can be very helpful in your search for new research topics.

In a Nutshell

  • A research topic is a well-defined subject the researcher is interested in.
  • Rational thinking and creative techniques are two methods you can use to generate research ideas.
  • Techniques to find good research topics include brainstorming, getting inspiration from your teachers, using relevance trees, doing a literature search or looking inwards.
  • You should have a genuine interest in the research topic you have chosen.


Salome Stolle

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About the author

Salome Stolle works as the brand manager for the English market at BachelorPrint. Throughout her 12-year residency in Denmark, she completed her International baccalaureate and Master’s in Culture, Communication, and Globalization with a specialization in media and market consumption. Through this experience, she has gained advanced competencies in academic writing and a high proficiency level in the English language. With her passion for writing, she does not only deliver well-written content but also strives to adjust to the students’ demands.

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