Research Paper: Topic Selection

Contributor: Delaine Thomas. Lesson ID: 12330

What if you have to or want to write about a favorite subject? How would you find out more information about it? There are so many ways to find out stuff, so start here to learn how to choose a topic!



English / Language Arts
learning style
personality style
Lion, Beaver
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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This boy seems excited about something! He wants to learn more about a topic that he loves. What subject fascinates you so much that you want to learn more about it? Do you know all the cool places you can look for information? You can start your search right here!

The little boy in the above picture seems to be enjoying what he is doing.

He is researching a topic that he really likes. Sometimes, we think research is only what scientists in a laboratory do, but it is so much more. When you have a topic that you really like or are curious about, you can dig deeper and find lots of information to increase your knowledge about that topic. That is what research is — it is digging deeper into a topic you want to know more about, then writing a report to share what you have found out.

The first thing you need to do when preparing to write a research paper is to select your topic. You might think that sounds easy, but as you will find out in the video below, it is not as easy as it sounds. Take out a piece of paper and pencil and number your paper 1 to 5. Write down the five steps you should use in selecting a topic for your research paper. Watch Picking Your Topic IS Research! from NCSU Libraries now:

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Do you remember the steps in the writing process? If you haven't yet completed The Writing Process series or need to review, you can find the first lesson under Additional Resources in the right-hand sidebar.

They are:

  • prewriting
  • writing
  • revising
  • editing
  • publishing
  • During the prewriting stage of the writing process, you brainstorm a list of subjects that interest you.
  • From this list, you are able to select a topic to write about.
  • After you select a topic, you need to check and see if there are enough books and other resources available to use when writing about this subject.
  • If there is not enough information on the topic, you will need to change or tweak the topic to one that is a little broader.
  • If there is a ton of books and other resources, then you might need to narrow your topic down a little. For example, if you chose World War II as your topic, you would probably find too much to write about. You might want to narrow that down to a paper about Pearl Harbor.

Remember when selecting your topic that you test your topic by seeing if there is enough or too much information on that topic. Then, find and read sources to see if you need to tweak your topic. Once you have chosen your topic, write a question about the topic to direct your research. If you were writing about Pearl Harbor, you might want to answer the question, "What happened as a result of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor?"

There are many resources you can use when conducting your research. The list below suggests some of these resources:

  1. books, magazines, and journals
  2. Newspapers contain current events, newsworthy topics, and entertainment information.
  3. Interviews provide a first-hand account of a person’s experiences.
  4. The Internet contains current information on many topics, including weather.
  5. Encyclopedias provide a good overall look at a topic.
  6. Atlases contain maps, and most also have mileage indicators.
  7. Almanacs contain facts such as weather, population, currency, and geographical data.

Before deciding on an individual resource, you need to determine if the resource has information that is relevant to your topic. You also want to make sure that the information is well-researched and if the author is an expert on the subject.

Complete the following interactive quiz to see if you understand how to use the above resources:

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Before continuing to the next section, tell your teacher or parent how you would use an encyclopedia, atlas, and an almanac. Are you ready to select your topic for your research paper?

Continue to the Got It? section and you can get started!

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