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Research paper prompts: choosing a relevant topic

Students can often encounter a couple of situations regarding the process of choosing a topic for their assignment. Depending on the requirements of the class, the specific guidelines the instructor has in place, and the length of the research paper, there are several ways you can go about selecting your topic.

One of the most common situations is when the instructor gives out a list of topics that they will accept. These topics have approved by the instructor and should be seen as acceptable and good topics to choose as your research topic. Some students find these types of lists to be a great help because it makes it easier to select the topic they will write on. However, it can also work where the list seems very boring, limited, or constraining and a student may feel trapped choosing from topics they have no interest in whatsoever. For example, the instructor may hand out a topics list that includes research topis such as: Cell phone use while driving, legal age for driving, laws for drinking and driving, and raising tickets for DUI. Some students may be able to easily select a topic from the list, but other may feel like none of those are what they want to write on. If you cannot choose from the list or have trouble or questions, then talk to your instructor. Be respectful and willing to listen and learn from them. Ask them about an idea you may have and see if they will let you write on that or ask then for ideas on how to take one of their topics and make it something you can write about.

The other common situation regarding research paper topics is when the instructor gives you guidelines for the length and sources needed but leaves the topic open to you and gives you the freedom to choose what you want to write about. Typically, these types of assignments will require you to relate your topic to something that has been discussed in the course. So make sure you keep that in the back of your mind as you work on your topic and write the paper. Try looking through class notes to see what you have a lot of note son or something that really grabbed your interest from class that might make a good research topic. For example, if you are writing a paper for history class, maybe see if there was a certain event you discussed in class that made an impact, or see if there was a particular person you learned about in class that could work as the focus for your paper. If you have questions, check with your instructor to make sure your topic fits what they are looking for. It is better to change your topic at the beginning than to get to the end and find out you are not on track.



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