Having the freedom to select ANY TOPIC you want for your paper or presentation is exciting as well as a bit terrifying. (It is, after all, a big world out there with a lot of topics to choose from). So how should you decide on a topic?
Skim over the titles and abstracts of some of your results. How has your topic been studied? Are any of these avenues particularly interesting? Have you noticed any tensions or disagreements among authors writing about your topic?
These questions should help you realize which aspects of your broader topic you are most interested in; this issue can then become your working topic.
Once you have a topic in mind, check out our Refining your Topic page for help structuring your topic and coming up with keywords.
Photo credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech, The spiral galaxy M33, Triangulum Galaxy [Public Domain] via http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/universe?subselect=Target:M33.
Did your professor give you an assignment with a set, very specific topic? (Be sure you have read your assignment carefully, and understand what you are being asked to do, BEFORE you select a topic and begin researching.)
For example: Explore how Shakespeare creates vivid characters in Othello and discuss how these characters resonate with modern audiences.
Maybe this topic does not sound very interesting to you - or maybe it does - but what I want you take away from this is that YOU have the power to select what ANGLE you take on the topic you have been assigned. And you can select an angle that truly interests you.
Here are some questions I might think about in trying to choose an angle for my Shakespeare paper:
Do you see what we are doing here? We are thinking about our own personal feelings and reactions to the topic we have been assigned. When you hit on an angle that sparks your interest - whether in terms of affection or ire - that is a topic you relate to and would enjoy researching.
Having trouble? Want to read some sources to help you find an interesting angle? Check out the tips in the box on the right.
Art Credit: Unknown, The Flower portrait of William Shakespeare, c. 1820-40 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.