Research Paper Ideas & Term Paper Idea Help

(Updated on January 8, 2018 by Michelle Williams)


Often, one of the most difficult parts of the paper researching and writing process is coming up with the initial research paper idea.  Many students will mull over several different report ideas before they decide on the "right" one.  However, after a student decides on a research paper idea and begins to perform actual research, he/she needs to be aware that the idea may evolve.

The first step in coming up with a research paper idea is to take a look at the project and requirements.  Most students will have project guidelines that their professors give to them in writing.  These guidelines may help the student to learn more about the length, content, and requirements of the report, which could influence selection of a report idea.  

Next, the student needs to take some time to research different report ideas.  By looking further into different report ideas, the student may be able to gain insight into which idea may be more interesting for him/her to spend time researching.  Students may also refine their ideas by exploring different options.  

Research Paper Ideas & Term Paper Idea HelpOnce a student has decided on one report idea to pursue, he/she needs to begin his/her research.  Many students find that they have more thorough research when they look through primary and secondary resources in order to uncover information about their topic.  However, students always need to be sure that they're researching their document idea or topic with as much depth as possible and as required by the project guidelines.  

Only after a student has spent time researching his/her topic can he/she develop an outline.  The research paper idea will be flushed out in the outline in order to create a structure of the document.  The outline will include content and the format of the document that will make actually writing the report easier.  

With the outline in place, the student can begin to work on his/her drafts, which should center on the report idea.  Most students will create several drafts before writing the final document.  Therefore, students need to set aside enough time to be thorough.  

There are many similarities between research paper ideas and research paper topics.  However, an idea tends to be a broader version of a topic, which is a specific idea that a learner will pursue in his/her research.  However, the idea is broad and may encompass several different topics.

Dissertation Ideas

For some students, determining the best dissertation idea can be the most difficult aspect of the entire dissertation process.  A good dissertation begins with a lengthy brainstorming process during which a student tries to determine which of his/her interests can be transformed into a good dissertation idea.  This is because there are seemingly endless dissertation ideas, but unfortunately, many that have already been done.  A dissertation must be original research; the student must develop an original dissertation idea on which to write.

A dissertation idea is different from a dissertation thesis.  The idea is the topic of the report, while the thesis is the specific argument about that topic.  For instance, a student's dissertation idea may be about plasticizing human cells.  A student's dissertation thesis would be a specific point or argument about plasticizing human cells, such as an analysis of why a certain plasticizing method is better than another.

To determine a dissertation idea, a student should first determine an area in his/her discipline in which he/she wishes to specialize.  A dissertation takes a year or more to complete, so the student must be able to sustain interest in the topic for a long period of time.  Furthermore, a dissertation topic often dictates what a student's specialization is, and will therefore often determine a career focus once a student graduates.  Therefore, the area a student finds most compelling should be the area from which he/she derives the report idea.

Once the student has selected a general area within the discipline, he/she should launch into exploratory research.  This means that the student should read a variety of academic texts and talk to a variety of experts in the area to learn more about it.  Typically, a variety of dissertation ideas will occur to a student through this process as he/she discovers particular issues within the area that he/she finds particularly compelling.  These ideas should be compiled in a list so the student can research them later.  

When the student has a few dissertation ideas on the list, he/she should begin focused research on each of those ideas in order to determine what has already been discovered about those ideas.  A dissertation idea must be original; therefore, the student must do intense investigation into what has already been done in the realm of the idea to see if he/she can pursue the idea and, if so, how.

Once the student has discovered an idea that's compelling and original, he/she should discuss the idea with his/her dissertation committee to seek approval and guidance.  If the committee approves the idea, the student is then ready to develop the report thesis.

Term Paper Ideas

When students need to complete a term paper, they often need to develop their own term paper ideas.  In many cases, a professor will assign a term paper topic.  However, if students are able to develop their own term paper ideas, then they're more likely to actually enjoy researching and writing the document.

Even when students are able to decide on their own term paper ideas, they may still have a difficult time.  There are many different subtopics for each topic that a student may choose to study.  However, with research and thought, each student should be able to come up with a term paper idea that suits his/her interests.  

The first place to start when trying to think of a report idea is with the course in which a student is enrolled.  The course will directly influence the subtopic about which a student may wish to write.  Students should look through their notes and books related to their course of study in order to come up with areas of the topic that interest them the most.  

Once students have a good idea of which term paper idea topic might interest them the most, they should run the idea by their professors.  Professors may be able to provide feedback and suggestions that can make the report even better and more complete.  

Next, after a student has refined his/her idea, he/she can begin with research.  Often, term paper ideas will evolve as students perform more and more research on a topic.  Therefore, an initial idea may not end up being the final idea that a student uses.  

Students may also be able to get term paper ideas by looking for previously written reports online or through other sources.  These term papers may be on the same subject that a student plans to study, which may also provide him/her with some guidance and resources.  

A term paper idea and a term paper topic are usually very similar, but they aren't always the same.  A term paper idea can sometimes be broader and more conceptual than a topic.  However, a term paper topic is a very specific statement or idea that will inform the document.  For example, a term paper idea may be "abortion," but a term paper topic could be "the impact of abortion on society."

Thesis Ideas

Whenever students need to complete a thesis, one of the first things they need to think about is their thesis idea, which is the general theme or purpose.  Under just one thesis idea, students may develop many different topics about which they may want to write.  Therefore, starting with thesis ideas helps students to determine the direction of their theses.

In order to find the right thesis idea, students need to be sure that they understand their purpose.  A thesis is a long project that a learner will write after researching one particular subject in depth.  Students may have to write theses for undergraduate courses.  However, most people understand a thesis as the final document that a learner will write for a graduate school program.  Students may have to defend their graduate theses in order to graduate from the program.  

Many students develop their document ideas even before entering their final graduate school year.  For many learners, a thesis idea is centered on a topic that interests them a great deal and that the student wishes to pursue as a career.  Therefore, finding the right thesis idea is easy for many students.  

However, some students have the challenge of having so many thesis ideas that they have to narrow them down to just one.  There are several different strategies for determining which specific thesis idea to pursue.  One of the most effective strategies is to consult with an advisor who is familiar with the student's area of study.  The advisor may have insight that can help the student to refine his/her thesis idea even further.  

Students should begin their theses with the thesis idea and then narrow the idea down to one particular topic that falls under the broader idea.  There are many similarities between a thesis idea and a thesis topic.  However, learners should be aware of the differences, as well.  

A thesis idea is often a very broad subject that relates to a student's field of study.  The thesis idea can be manipulated in many different ways in order to uncover a specific thesis topic, which is a narrower subject than the thesis idea.  However, just like the idea, the topic can be further refined to a series of sub-topics.  Students should understand, though, that a thesis idea is a parent category for a thesis topic and, therefore, many not be as specific as a topic.

Ideas for Research Papers

One of the most challenging tasks for students is coming up with ideas for reports.  After all, there are many different topics and sub-topics about which a student can write for just one course! In order to come up with ideas for research paper documents, learners can access a variety of resources and use many different ideation methods.

One of the best ways for students to come up with ideas for research papers is to think about what sub-topic within a particular course interests him/her the most.  Many students will review the lessons that they have learned from a course and immediately determine that several different things sparked their curiosity more than others.  In such a case, students may be able to pursue one or more of those things for the document.  

Some students also find excellent ideas for research papers by reviewing papers that other students have completed for a particular course.  Students may use online research paper databases to browse through the papers that have been completed for a particular course or topic.  For example, if a student is taking a Shakespearean English course, the student may review papers that have been written on Shakespeare in order to find appropriate topics.  

Students may also be able to ask their professors for ideas for research paper documents.  Many professors know their subject matter intimately and can suggest some ideas that will be befitting to a student's interests.  Professors may also use previously written reports in order to help learners to come up with their own ideas.  

Whenever a student comes up with ideas for research papers, students need to be sure that they're able to distinguish between ideas for research papers and topics for reports.  While the two are very similar, ideas for research paper documents are broader than topics.  For example, a student may have the idea to write about abortion.  However, the topic could be how abortion impacts ethics amongst physicians.  

Also, learners should be able to distinguish between ideas for research paper documents and theses.  A thesis is a one-sentence statement that describes what a research paper is about.  However, ideas for research papers are broad beginnings that will give way to the research that then informs the conclusion.  Therefore, the thesis is a result of a student's pursuit of an idea.

Ideas for a Research Paper

Coming up with creative and relevant ideas for a research paper can be tough—especially if a teacher or professor has left the topic of the report open for students to make their own selections.  When it comes to developing ideas for research papers, one thing is certain: students often perform better when they're able to write about a topic that they enjoy.  Therefore, when professors allow their students to come up with their own topics, learners will often be more committed to the document.  Coming up with ideas for a research paper may not always be easy for all students, though.

There are a variety of strategies that students can use in order to come up with ideas for reports.  First, they need to understand the nature of the assignment.  Different research paper styles should be matched to different subjects.  For example, a project that a student writes for a science class will be very different from a project that a student writes for an English class.  Therefore, students need to understand the requirements of researching and writing about different subjects.  

The student should also review the report assignment before deciding on a topic for the document.  Students might have different ideas for a project that should be five pages long versus a project that should be 20 pages long.  Students might also have different ideas for papers that need in-depth research on new topics versus papers that should be based on works that the student studied as part of a class.

If a student has a hard time coming up with his/her own ideas for a report, he/she should always approach the professor or teacher for insight.  A professor may help learners to develop a research paper topic around an area that interests them.  For example, if a student enjoys kayaking and wants to complete a research paper for a history class about kayaking, but doesn't want to write about the historical record of kayaking, a professor might encourage the student to write about the Lewis and Clarke journeys out West.

Coming up with ideas for a research paper is different than coming up with ideas for a dissertation, in many cases.  Both types of academic documents require that students perform a significant amount of data collection.  However, when a student completes a dissertation, the thesis is a substantial component that—in and of itself—can take months or even years to develop.  Dissertations embody the culmination of many years of dedication to one subject or theme.  Dissertations can also often define one's future career.  The student will often have a lifelong passion for his/her dissertation topic.  

Research papers, however, are often assignments for high school, graduate, and undergraduate programs.  They may help to define interests for a student, but they don't always define a career or serve as culminating works for students' entire educational experience.

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