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MIT: Resources for Writers
If the topic is not provided by the instructor
Sometimes instructors leave the selection of meaningful topics or research questions up to you. In such cases, you can find a topic by doing the following:
Begin by asking yourself why you were interested in this particular course in the first place. Your interest in the course might provide a clue about what to investigate.
- Look over class notes for provocative or interesting ideas.
- Focus on points from the notes that you find interesting or puzzling.
- Consider points about which the instructor has said “No one has adequately explained or explored X yet” or “It would be interesting to find out more about Y.”
- Consider the personal relevance this course might have for you.
- Ask yourself if you can test or expand a model or concept studied in class.
- Glance through books and journals in the area studied in class to find out what scholars are talking about and whether anything is missing from that scholarly conversation. If something is missing, that might be your topic.
- Ask your instructor or TA for suggestions.
- Explore some disagreement with a particular author or scholar in the field.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), CC BY-SA 3.0 US