8 Tips for Final Year Students to Choose a Research Paper Topic

Today, I will be writing on how a final year student can choose a research topic for the undergraduate final project. It is compulsory for every final year student to do research which would add to knowledge and also help in solving an existing problem in society. However, it is a major challenge for a lot of students, hence this write-up will solve all the challenges.

The ability to develop a good research topic is an important skill. Your supervisor or your instructor may assign you a specific topic, but most often the instructors will require you to select your own topic of interest. When deciding on a topic, there are a few things that you will need to do.

  • Brainstorm for ideas
  • Choose a topic that will enable you to read and understand the literature
  • Ensure that the topic is manageable and that material is available
  • make a list of key words
  • be flexible
  • Define your topic as a focused research question
  • Research and read more about your topic
  • Formulate a thesis statement

Be aware that selecting a good research topic may not be easy. It must be narrow and focused enough to be interesting, yet broad enough to find adequate information. Before selecting your topic, make sure you know what your final project should look like. Every instructor will likely require a different format or style of the research project.

Use the steps below to guide you through the process of selecting a research topic

Brainstorm for ideas

Choose a topic that interests you. Use the following questions to help generate topic ideas.

  • Do you have a strong opinion on a current social or political controversy
  • Did you read or see a news story recently that has piqued your interest or made you angry or anxious?
  • Do you have a personal issue, problem or interest that you would like to know more about?
  • Do you have a research paper due for a class this semester?
  • Is there an aspect of a class that you are interested in learning more about?
  • Write down any keywords or concepts that may be of interest to you. Could these terms help be used to form a more focused research topic?
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Be aware of overused ideas when deciding a topic. You may wish to avoid topics such as, waste management, housing, water scarcity, etc. Unless you feel you have a unique approach to the topic. Ask the instructor for ideas if you feel you are stuck or need additional guidance. This way you will be able to do some meaningful.

Read General Background Information

Read a general encyclopedia article on the top two or three topics you are considering. Reading a broad summary enables you to get an overview of the topic and see how your idea relates to broader, narrower, and related issues. It also provides a great source for finding words commonly used to describe the topic. These keywords may be very useful to your later research. If you cant find an article on your topic, try using broader terms and ask for help from a librarian

  • Use periodical indexes to scan current magazine, journal or newspaper articles on your topic. Ask a librarian if they can help you to browse articles on your topics of interest.
  • Use Web search engines. Google and Bing are currently considered to be two of the best search engines to find web sites on the topic. If you cannot get a librarian ask those who you feel can guide you through

Focus on Your Topic to Keep it manageable

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A topic will be very difficult to research if it is too broad or narrow. One way to narrow a broad topic such as “the environment” is to limit your topic. Some common ways to limit a topic are by:

Geographical Area
Example: What environmental issues are most important in your country

Culture
Example: How does the environment fit into your research?

Time Frame
Example: What are the most prominent environmental issues of the last 10 years?

Discipline
Example: How does your topic environment today?

Population Group
Example: Who is your target population?

Remember that a topic may be too difficult to research if it is too

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Locally Confined
Topics like this specific may only be covered in these (local) newspapers, if at all.

Recent
If a topic is quite recent, books or journal articles may not be available, but newspaper or magazine articles may be available. Also, websites related to the topic may or may not be available.
Broadly Interdisciplinary
You could be overwhelmed with superficial information.
Example: How can the environment contribute to the culture, politics and society?

Popular
You will only find very popular articles about some topics. If you have any difficulties or questions with focusing your topic, discuss the topic with your instructor, or with a librarian.

Make a list of useful words

  • Keep track of the words that are used to describe your topic.
  • Look for words that best describe your topic
  • Look for them when reading encyclopedia articles and background and general information
  • Find broader and narrower terms, synonyms, key concepts for key words to widen your search capabilities
  • Make note of these words and use them later when searching databases and catalogs

Be Flexible

It is common to modify your topic during the research process. You can never be sure of what you may find. You may find too much and need to narrow your focus, or too little and need to broaden your focus. This is a normal part of the research process. When researching, you may not wish to change your topic, but you may decide that some other aspect of the topic is more interesting or manageable.

Keep in mind the assigned length of the research paper, project, bibliography or other research assignment. Be aware of the depth of coverage needed and the due date. These important factors may help you decide how much and when you will modify your topic.

Focus your topic as a research question

You will often begin with a word, develop a more focused interest in an aspect of something relating to that word, then begin to have questions about the topic.

For example Ideas = Frank Lloyd Wright or modern architecture
Research Question = How has Frank Lloyd Wright influenced modern architecture?
Focused Research Question = What design principles used by Frank Lloyd Wright are common in contemporary homes?

Research and Read More About Your Topic

Use the key words you have gathered to research in the catalog, article databases, and Internet search engines. Find more information to help you answer your research question.
You will need to do some research and reading before you select your final topic. Can you find enough information to answer your research question? Remember, selecting a topic is an important and complex part of the research process.

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Formulate a Thesis Statement

Write your topic as a thesis statement. This may be the answer to your research question and/or a way to clearly state the purpose of your research. Your thesis statement will usually be one or two sentences that states precisely what is to be answered, proven, or what you will inform your audience about your topic. The development of a thesis assumes there is sufficient evidence to support the thesis statement.

For example

A thesis statement could be: Frank Lloyd Wright’s design principles, including his use of ornamental detail and his sense of space and texture, opened a new era of American architecture. His work has influenced contemporary residential design.

The title of your paper may not be exactly the same as your research question or your thesis statement, but the title should clearly convey the focus, purpose and meaning of your research.

For example, a title could be: Frank Lloyd Wright: Key Principles of Design For the Modern Home

Remember to follow any specific instructions from your instructor.

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About the author

I am Adegboyega Tunde Temitayo. A registered Town Planner with the Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP) and Town Planners Registration Council (TOPREC).

I love to think differently and possibly on various Urban and Regional Planning issues to proffer solutions to Urban and Rural Environmental Problems. You can subscribe to my YouTube Channel

As the Chief Editor of Town Planners Diary, I humbly welcome you to this platform which is about enhancing Planning Education through research on various Town Planning and Environmental issues.

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