As mentioned earlier, sometimes you will be assigned a specific research topic, while other times you will need to choose your own topic.
In upper division undergraduate or graduate classes, you increasingly take on responsibility for identifying and addressing problems within your discipline through original research.
In creative disciplines, you may be relying on your own ideas and inspiration from the start, but your engagement with others' ideas and the type of creative problem you tackle may become more complex as you progress through your major.
Academic researchers have spent their careers getting to know the problems in their discipline, and they have networks of trusted colleagues they can turn to for advice, encouragement, and constructive criticism as they develop their ideas. But how can you find a good research topic as a student - particularly if it's on a subject you are just learning about for the first time?
Professors Wayne Booth, Gregory Coloumb and Joseph Williams offered ideas in their book The Craft of Research. Here are two excerpts from that book that offer good advice for finding a research topic and framing it as a problem.
The professors also shared this helpful "elevator speech" exercise you can use to set your research ideas down on paper for the first time:
This exercise can help you through the vulnerable initial stage of shaping your initial interest - what inspired your curiosity in a subject - into a concrete topic. In the next section of this guide, I'll show you how to refine your topic into a focused research question.
Write your research topic according to the formula:
I am studying: topic
Because I want to find out: question
To help readers understand: significance