Project Resources: How To Choose An Effective Research Topic

Project Resources: How To Choose An Effective Research Topic

This guide is provided for the benefit of Modern Language students at Finger Lakes Community College. However, the counsel here is probably good enough to satisfy most other academic endeavors. Enjoy!

What is your major / focus / passion?

The Synthesis Project is a chance for you to discover something new about the world! This project is about your curiosity and passions, so take the opportunity to learn something that you want to know!

Don’t pick a topic to make your instructor happy. Choose an idea that resonates with your current path of study. What is your current major, focus, or area of interest? Choose a topic that will keep your interest. Choose a topic that will provide you with valuable information in your future endeavors.

You may also want to choose a topic that will provide you with valuable research or a product/skill that will make you more marketable after graduation. How can I use this project after I graduate? Teachers often make lesson materials, artists draw and paint, writers … write! Culinary protegees cook and bake while engineers study unique architecture. Make something awesome!

I really have no idea…

Well, just in case you’re stuck. Here’s a list of Creative Project Topic Ideas (via LEAF) for you to get started. Think about your talents and interests and see if there’s anything here that gets your brain going!

What do you know about the concept?

Use what you already know about your prospective topic to ask more questions. What have you already learned about the topic? What is it about this topic that makes you want to learn more? What are the gaps in your knowledge that need to be filled? What questions have gone unasked?

What DON’T you know about the concept?

Use question words to identify what information you are missing, then do more research to fill in the gaps!

Who: Are there famous/successful people that are experts on this topic?
What: Does the topic address a greater question or answer in society?
When: How has the idea been addressed in history, or its place in society today?
Where: Is the topic location-specific? Why is it important in that area?
Why: Why do people in this culture think that this is important? Why do YOU think it’s important?
How: How does this cultural element affect people around it? How does it work?

Narrow it down!

Use those question words again to narrow your topic down to a VERY specific idea/concept/project. The more specific the topic, the easier research becomes (really!) Examples below.

Who: Puerto Ricans – What side of the island? Ethnic groups? Demographic?
What: Art – Painting? Graffiti? Colonial or Postmodern? Commercial or academic?
When: Today? Yesterday? 500 years ago? A combination of all?
Where: There’s a LOT of France! Mountains or beach? City or country? What neighborhood?
Why: Just because that’s what they do… NEVER! What does history or anthropology say?
How: Step-by-step. Break it down into micro-scale. Ask why every little piece is important!

Answer a question or solve a problem!

This project isn’t just about research. Take the opportunity to MAKE something that can change your world!

  • Artists can create works for an upcoming show.
  • Musicians can compose and practice for a performance.
  • Culinary students can fuse new flavors and create new dishes while honoring traditional ones.
  • Teachers can prepare lesson plans/media for their students.
  • Writers can immerse themselves in new worlds.
  • Entrepreneurs can organize business plans for new markets.
  • Scientists can arrange new collaborations.
  • Medical professionals can prepare themselves for global concerns.