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College Writing 1 : Saylor: Choosing a Topic

Choosing a topic

Selecting a topic can be the hardest part of a research paper.  As you gather additional information about your topic it may be necessary to refine or adjust your initial topic. It is important to make sure your topic meets the requirements of the assignment.  Always as your professor if you need clarification.

Questions to think about when choosing a topic:

  • What interests me?
  • What am I passionate about?
  • What have I heard about in the news?
  • What are some ideas from class readings?

Once you've selected your topic make sure it isn't too broad or too narrow.  If it's too broad you will be overwhelmed with information. If the topic is too narrow you will have a difficult time meeting the page requirements for your research paper.

Broad topics: Terrorism, Autism, Anorexia, Legalizing Marijuana

Narrow topics: Parking issues on Kent Stark Campus, Tuition differences between KSU campuses, Football program at GlenOak High school


A good rule to follow is to be able to answer all 5 questions below about your topic.  If you can answer all 5 questions, you can feel confident you are on the right path.

  1. Who: Who is involved? At what level? Who is affected?
  2. What:  What is its significance? What is at stake? What are the issues?
  3. Where: Where does your subject occur? Where is its source?
  4. When: When does your topic occur? When did it begin/end? When must action be taken to deal with it?
  5. Why: Why is your subject of interest? Why did it develop as it did? Why should others be interested in your topic?