Research Paper Thesis Topics

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Research paper thesis topics depend on the subject of the class. A thesis is a major paper, usually involving primary research or an original contribution. Theses are for undergraduate honors degrees or a master's degree. The paper provides a convincing, concise argument about your area of research. But first, you need the topic.

1 Find Your Interests

Writing a major paper is easier when you’re interested in the topic in the first place. In the initial brainstorming stage, think of topics covered in course material you found interesting. If you plan to pursue future graduate work, consider a topic you can continue to build upon. At the heart of your topic is a puzzle -- something contrary to conventional knowledge or belief. You may need to do some preliminary research to build an understanding of your subject area and identify your puzzle.

2 Analytical Versus Descriptive

The best papers are analytical. That is, they answer a "why" question instead of a "what" question. Some description of your issue is necessary, but be brief and only provide information necessary for your analysis. Choose a topic where you explain the cause of the observed behavior or event. This may involve reframing your topic. For example, instead of "what are the arguments for and against abortion?" try "why is the abortion issue so polarizing?"

3 Considerations

The length of the paper influences your topic. Some theses are 50 pages, while others can exceed 100 pages. Despite the expanded length, remember to choose a topic narrow enough to analyze it in-depth. Second, consider what information is available. If your topic a current event, it will be impossible to find peer-reviewed information because the peer review process can take over a year. This can be advantageous if you have resources for primary research, but you will have fewer secondary sources for background information.

4 Demonstrate Relevance

The overall goal is a topic that is relevant to the field and provides an original contribution. It can take time to find your niche in your area of interest, but look for debates in the literature or anomalous cases. Once you have a general topic, it is an iterative, or repetitive, process to refine your thesis topic. You need to determine a topic, read available information multiple times, then change or further refine your idea.

Maggie Allen is a political science doctoral student and a trained facilitator of environmental conflicts. She has traveled extensively for her work and began writing on these experiences in 2006, including policy papers for international organizations. She holds a Master of Arts in international development from the University of Guelph and a Bachelor of Arts in international studies from the University of Northern British Columbia.