Choose a topic
Sometimes choosing your topic may seem like the hardest part of a project. Your assignment will be your starting point, and the requirements will tell you a lot about what sorts of ideas will make an appropriate topic:
- How long does your paper need to be?
A shorter paper will need a more narrowly focused idea, and a longer paper a broader one.
- How much time do you have?
If you have several weeks, it’s likely your instructor is expecting you to do a lot of research.
- Do you need a a particular number or type of references?
Scholarly books and articles, for example, take time to write and publish, so topics focused narrowly on a recent event can be problematic.
There are several ways to help generate ideas for a paper if reviewing the requirements of your assignment leaves you stumped.
- Talk to your instructor or TA.
They may have suggestions, or can give you examples of the sort of ideas that have made for good papers for other students.
- Talk to your classmates.
Find out what ideas they’re considering. Talking to each other is a good way to brainstorm and to figure out what interests you.
- Think about what you’re studying in other classes.
Are there interesting ways in which they might intersect with or relate to this class?
- Browse newspapers (in print or online) or reference materials.
If you decide to use a current event as your starting point, keep in mind that it takes time to write scholarly articles and books on a subject. You may need to broaden your focus to have a meaty enough topic to write about.
- Look through this list of topics
that the University of Illinois Library has collected. It has dozens of topics that have been of interest to recent students. It’s a great place to start if you’re at a loss for ideas.