The Research Process

Choosing a Topic

“I write out of ignorance. I write about the things I don’t have any resolutions for, and when I’m finished, I think I know a little bit more about it. I don’t write out of what I know. It’s what I don’t know that stimulates me.”Toni Morrison, author and Northeast Ohio native

Think of a research paper as an opportunity to deepen (or create!) knowledge about a topic that matters to you. Just as Toni Morrison states that she is stimulated by what she doesn’t yet know, a research paper assignment can be interesting and meaningful if it allows you to explore what you don’t know.

Research, at its best, is an act of knowledge creation — and this knowledge creation is the essence of any great educational experience. Instead of being lectured at, you get to design the learning project that will ultimately result in you demonstrating your own intellectual growth.

As you choose your research topic, start with something that you do not not know, but that you want to know.

Choose a topic that you often hear about, but want to understand better. Or

Choose a topic that represents something you have lived through, but don’t fully understand. Or

Choose a topic that you have a strong opinion on, but are willing to try to understand others’ opinions and how those opinions are shaped. Or

Choose something that is relevant to you, personally or professionally.

And once you have chosen perhaps a few topics that feel interesting and meaningful, see how they hold up to the criteria for a good and manageable research topic that are laid out here: