Select a Topic
Once you understand your assignment requirements, you can start thinking about your topic. Selecting a topic involves two processes: finding a subject that interests you and then deciding what you want to learn about that topic.
In some cases, the topic of your research paper will already have been assigned to you. In other cases, you may have the opportunity to choose your own topic that fits within the scope of the course subject matter.
As you try to decide upon a topic, it can be helpful to do a little preliminary research to get a good general overview of the subject and determine if there is enough information about the subject to write a research paper. AU Library has a range of online resources that you can search for this purpose. For example, the online encyclopaedia's found in AU Library's Digital Reference Centre can provide basic information on a topic. You should also search AUCAT (AU Library's online catalogue) and/or the journal databases that the library subscribes to, in order to see what information is available on your topic.
If you are having problems finding information on your topic, you may want to consider talking with someone at AU Library to see if there are alternative sources to search for your topic. Keep in mind that the range of information sources available to you is substantial and Library staff are available to help you determine appropriate resources to search. You may also want to talk with your course professor or tutor about your topic.
Once you have decided on a topic, you will need a research question to narrow the focus of your research. For example, if you have to write your research paper on the topic of autism you will need to determine what about the topic you wish to research, because autism alone is a very broad subject, and you will find thousands of resources on the topic. By focusing your topic in a specific aspect or aspects, your research paper will be more manageable. What aspects of the subject interest you in particular and formulate questions based on your thoughts:
e.g. the treatment of autism in children
It is wise to think about the types of questions you can ask about the treatment of autism: Is autism treatable? Is it curable? What methods of treatment are currently being used? Drug therapy? Behavioural therapy? Are they effective? Are some methods more effective than others? What are the long-term effects of treating autistic children? From these questions, choose one or two that interest you the most and use them as basis to begin your research.
Trying to Decide on a Topic?
Ideas for research papers can come from many different places:
- Topics mentioned in your course that you would like to explore further
- Personal experience and personal interest
- Television, radio, and the Internet
- Books that you have read
- Browsing through the library or an encyclopaedia
- Friends and family