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How to Identify a Research Topic?

How to Identify a Research Topic?


Any research always starts with a question. However, formulating that question sometimes can be one of the hardest parts of the entire process. In this regard, before finding the right and appropriate question to ask, it is worth having some context or background regarding the topic the researcher wants to explore. Indeed, the problem identified is the central organizing principle that guides the entire analysis of the paper. Precisely, the research question or topic is what governs the researcher on what to say and what not to say regarding his or her own investigations and experiments (Silverman, 2010). The latter presents the primary subject matter of academic communication alongside other means the researcher arrives at other topics of conversations alongside discovery of new knowledge.

Identifying a research topic might be a hectic task but with the help of the four fundamental questions, the entire procedure can be easy and promising. The first question that the researcher needs to ask him or herself is that, is there any utility in the answer? It is evident that sometimes a researcher may care about the outcome or the answer even without the utility which is not supposed to be the case. Secondly, the researcher has to ask himself whether the problem is solvable within a particular period of time and is this the right time to start with it or not. Thirdly, one has to research and determine if it is the first time the topic or the problem is being handled or explored (Glatthorn & Joyner, 2005). Markedly, if it is not the first time, then the researcher has to identify the research gap. The latter can be done in the library to search about the past researches regarding the same topic and analyzing what was found and why. Notably, the researcher has to find whether if there are other people working on it. If no other scholars are studying or exploring the same topic, then it is high time for the researcher to ask himself whether he or she has right tools to address the topic or the problem that he or she is thinking of.

The reason as to why some people are successful in research work and others are not, it is not because they are smarter or intelligent or even works harder than others. It is because they have a secret weapon. Therefore, it is good for the researcher to know and understand his or her secret weapon in a more profound manner. For example, a good problem is a topic that nobody has thought about before particularly on the researcher’s line of study (Glatthorn & Joyner, 2005). Although the researcher might need to combine knowledge from diverse disciplines, it is not good for a researcher to identify a topic outside his or her scope of study as it might bring on board complicated challenges (Agee, 2009). Notably, it is also good for the researcher to take a real and practical problem with high payoffs as best research topic comes from real problems. To conclude, it is important to share the topics or the research problem with people who can assist in shaping up the idea. For instance, the researcher has to discuss with his or her supervisor for guidelines. Besides, family members might also assist in identifying the research topic (Agee, 2009). To sum it up, creativity in the entire process plays predominant roles in the identification of a valid, unique and an outstanding research topic.


Agee, J. (2009). Developing qualitative research questions: a reflective process. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education22(4), 431-447.

Glatthorn, A. A., & Joyner, R. L. (2005). Writing the winning thesis or dissertation: A step-by-step guide. Corwin Press.

Silverman, D. (2010).Using theories. Doing qualitative research:A practical Handbook (3rd ed.,pp. 101-116).London: Sage.