IC Honors Advice: On Choosing a Paper Topic

writing-828911_960_720.jpgAdvice: Use personal interests and the requirements of the assignment to choose a great paper topic.

Why: A lot of people have trouble picking a good research topic. Knowing what to write about, and how big your topic should be, is a skill that you need to learn. But you can make the job easier for yourself by picking something you’re interested in. You’ll be focusing on the topic of a research assignment for a while, so pick something you care about. Do some quick background research to make sure it’s a good topic. Once you’ve got some ideas, you need to ask a question and decide on a scope. Make your question open-ended and think carefully about how big the question is. The size of the assignment matters here: if you’ve got 4 pages, you don’t want to write on “The causes of cancer” – it’s just too big. But be careful not to make your topic too small either, because you’ll have a hard time with an obscure topic. It’s probably pretty tough to find enough information on a topic like “the relation of skin cancer to ethnicity in Malaysia.”