Selecting a topic can be the most important and most difficult step of your research project. An ideal topic:
When you get an assignment where you need to choose your own topic, begin by considering topics covered in your course and textbooks/readings that fit the assignment. Then do some background research on one or more of those topics to get a bird's eye historical view. This will not only help you narrow your focus but equip you with the necessary vocabulary (names of people, places, and things related to the topic) to search the scholarly literature.
Let's look at a brief example of how this narrowing process might look on paper:
Starting idea: cyberbullying
What things would you need to find out in order to write about this topic? What people (high school, middle school, or college students?), places (U.S., NYS, or a comparison between places?) and related concepts (internet trolls, state and federal laws, school policies, social media platforms, statistics, such as the number of people who experience or see it?) are connected to this idea?
Ideas for narrowing the topic (freeform brainstorm - look at aspects of the topic from above that appeal to you - put into the form of questions): Cyberbullying and child development? Cyberbullying and post-traumatic stress? Is there a connection between those who troll on the internet and those who engage in cyberbullying? What policies have been put in place in NYS (or my local school district) to combat cyberbullying? What is the relationship, if any, between economic and or ethnic status and cyberbullying?
Locate more information sources related to the topic (books, journal articles, government reports, etc.). Read or skim them and begin to formulate a more concrete direction for your research to take. Take notes (see resources to the right). As your knowledge of the topic grows, ideas for what ultimate question(s) your paper will attempt to answer should start taking shape.
Material in this section is adapted from the Research Skills Tutorial by the Librarians at Empire State College has been made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
If you're feeling stuck for a good idea, start with one of these resources. Simply browse around until a topic catches your attention!
Other brainstorming sources include the news, Wikipedia, your friends, and magazines - a topic is only ever as good as the work you put into researching it.