Writing a term paper: how to pick a researchable topic


Ah, the age-old problem of choosing the ideal research topic when writing your term paper. As you will have been told many times before and will be told many times again, the topic is the be-all and end-all of the success of your writing. If you get a good researchable topic upon which to write, you give yourself a seriously good boost. There are a number of simple steps you can take to end up with the ideal researchable topic. Here are those steps.

  • choose a wide ranging topic
  • choose a more specific topic
  • choose a seriously specific topic

One of the problems that many students have is that they try to think of a very specific or particular topic upon which to write their term paper. They get writers’ block. They come up against a brick wall. This is because they don't use the technique as listed above. Instead of starting small, start big and work down the topic.

So let's say for argument's sake that we take the topic of recycling. Now this at first glance is a huge topic. There are so many things which can be recycled. There are costs and benefits in all aspects of recycling. There is government policy and activities where people can volunteer to recycle. The topic is vast. But that's good. Having a vast topic is the first step in choosing a researchable topic.

Having got your vast topic you then look for something within that topic which is more specific. Not minutely specific but just more specific than a simple topic of recycling. Let's say that it involves the recycling of material which is not biodegradable. Being able to dump goods which are biodegradable does not carry the same incentive for recycling. If the material is biodegradable and is dumped it will in time break down and join forces with the soil. So now we are at stage II of learning how to pick a researchable topic.

But again this is still not specific enough. We have the broad topic of recycling and the more specific topic of recycling material which is not biodegradable. We could settle on a number of different products. It could be digital equipment which is no longer in use such as computers, printers and monitors. So now we are getting down to tin tacks. Now we are getting to the crux of the matter. The whole point of this exercise is to pick a researchable topic.

Because we have got to a very specific topic, it is very easy for us to do some simple searching to discover what and how much source material is available on this topic. Because our topic is so specific it is easy to find out what is available. And in this case you would find that there is an enormous amount of resource material available which makes our topic highly researchable.