The Research Process

Brainstorm for Coming Up With a Topic

No idea where to start?

Which question(s) below interest you? Which question(s) below spark a desire to respond? A good topic is one that moves you to think, to do, to want to know more, to want to say more. 

See if any of these questions can lead you to a freewriting session where you simply try to get some thoughts down on paper.

  1. What news stories do you often see and sort of follow, but want to know more about?
  2. What (socio-political) argument do you often have with others that you would love to work on strengthening?
  3. What would you love to become an expert on?
  4. What are you passionate about?
  5. What are you scared of?
  6. What problem in the world needs to be solved?
  7. What are the key controversies or current debates in the field of work that you want to go into?
  8. What is a problem that you see at work that needs to be better publicized or understood?
  9. What is the biggest issue facing [ specific group of people: by age, by race, by gender, by ethnicity, by nationality, by geography, by economic standing? choose a group]
  10. If you could interview anyone in the world, who would it be? Can identifying that person lead you to a research topic that would be meaningful to you?
  11. What area/landmark/piece of history in your home community are you interested in?
  12. What in the world makes you angry?
  13. What global problem do you want to better understand?
  14. What local problem do you want to better understand?
  15. Is there some element of the career that you would like to have one day that you want to better understand?
  16. Consider researching the significance of a song, or an artist, or a musician, or a novel/film/short story/comic, or an art form on some aspect of the broader culture.
  17. Think about something that has happened to (or is happening to) a friend or family member. Do you want to know more about this?
  18. The New York Times’ segment “Room for Debate” has many compelling and current questions, along with commentary from a variety of perspectives. Choose one of these questions to pursue?
  19. Go to a news source (New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Christian Science Monitor, etc) and skim the titles of news stories. Does any story interest you?

There are many other ways to come up with a good topic. The best thing to do is to give yourself time to think about what you really want to commit days and weeks to reading, thinking, researching, more reading, writing, more researching, reading and writing on.