How to Select or Choose A Research Project Topic

How to Select or Choose A Research Project Topic

Last updated on June 14, 2020 by The Counselor

If you’re looking for a shortcut in other to write a research project, there are tons of websites offering complete project/thesis research topics and materials for a little fee. This post is meant for those who really want to write something of worth, no intention for a quick project but really want to contribute their quota to academia through research.

I looked around the web, and I wasn’t satisfied with what many bloggers have written on how to choose or select a research/project/thesis topic. One language was common in all their write-ups Brainstorming. What will you brainstorm when there is no labelled problem The aim of a research project is not only to identify a problem; of course, we all know there is a problem, the world is full of unwanted problems but rather to solve a problem by creating a solution and communicate same effectively.

When you’re searching out how to write research project topic, don’t depend on your energy and imagination, you should rather find something that is important and genuinely interests you. Important; because it must be convincing to the reader. You should choose a topic that is demonstrably important, that has elements which are themselves new and important, and the resulting study should be both reasonable and convincing. Genuinely interest you; because you’re the one writing, else, it becomes a chore. There are great papers to be written in almost all fields. You need to settle on an area where you are sufficiently interested that you don’t mind making some investments since these investments are preparing you not only for research work but also the challenges ahead. Some blogger lauds the idea of paying attention to your social world. Look to the media, news outlets, your friends – what issues are people debating now etc Well, this is a good way to cultivate ideas if it is a source that has something related to your field.

Types of research project topic

  • Applied Theory Research Project Topic
  • Empirical Research Project Topic

Empirical Research Project Topic
For those who plan to write in empirics, there are several good reasons to infuse yourself in the vast ocean of theories. The first is simply because you would like to have your empirical workplace some intellectual capital on the line. What views of the world will we affirm or abandon (strengthen or weaken) on the basis of your empirical work If you do not have an answer to this, then the empirical work will not be very exciting. Yes, sometimes you just want to present an experiment and a story about it. If the approach to experiment has some novel and important element, that can be its own justification. Failing this, the excitement in empirical work is to cast doubt on/rule out some views of the world that people might otherwise have maintained. The second reason for a reading theory is simply that the more closely your empirical work is tied to the underlying theory, the more convincing will be the result of your experiments.


Applied Theory Research Project Topic
If you want to write applied theory, read empirics. Although most courses under Education, Law, and Social Sciences do not have a real substantial contact with both theory and empirics. The few ones with real contact are worth it because they maintain a sort of internally consistent with known experimentation or observations. For example, a student of Sociology whose research is based on criminal behaviour, have real substantial contact with both theory and empirics. An Interesting applied theory topic is not just based on assumptions, abstract models or the result of a questionnaire but finding an approved or unapproved empirical counterpart. Who knows if your applied theory may be the reason why the unapproved get approval.


How to choose your research project topic

Probe your Interest
The first step towards choosing a topic is to start asking questions based on your interest. You’ll be surprised that some of this questions have been answered, or approaches so exhaustively explored that it is nearly impossible to identify topics or questions able to move your reader/supervisor. On the other hand, there is often a set of questions that the leaders in the field/lecturers are currently struggling with and may be very far from having definitive answers.

Being able to weigh in on these problems with a new insight (and avoid dead topics) is an important step towards getting a narrowed research topic. But you will also want to choose a topic that has sufficient source material or expose yourself to material broader than your own research project, for two key reasons. The first is that there may be unexpected synergies between work in other fields and your own prospective research topics. E.g A student of Psychology may prove into topics from Sociology. Second, by reading some of the best research and by looking at it with the appropriate questions in mind, you can come to understand concretely if there is a need to embark on a topic.

A research project is good if it is new but better if you’re probing into an old contribution


Talk to Your Advisor
Most students do not come or ask project supervisor or course advisor for ideas – wrong move. Even if your advisor gives you the privilege of choosing your research project topic, there is great joy when you come back and solicit for ideas – you’re simply telling the advisor from the start that I can’t do this without you. Advisors want you to succeed. Engage your advisers with ideas. Do not be afraid to speak up – the risks of saying nothing far outweigh the costs of occasionally saying something stupid or treading on the wrong research project lane. The advisor might suggest some data and information that you can use, give you notes on your paper and push you in the right direction. You don’t have to accept what they say, but have a good reason for ignoring their advice. 

You can have one project research supervisor but many content supervisor. More like a guidance

How to Select A Research Project Topic
A project student probing past contributions for interesting topics

Question Authority! 
When you embark on finding a project topic, you’re the boss, the critic, so make no room to reverence any material! Read what is being written in your field, recognize the contributions that have come in the prior literature, but do not be awed by it. Question everything. Try to state the arguments in your own words. Do you find the arguments convincing Are there some lapses in the broader claims that are made The contribution – is still relevant in today’s dispensation Often these will be the paths open for new and interesting project topics. While one should respect prior work in the field, every step forward begins by recognizing the limitations of what has come before, how to add more value without discarding the old.

Questioning everything is the mother of inquisitiveness

Default structure/format of research project topics

Many students embark on a research project topic without an understanding of project structure. The decision to choose a particular research project topic must be fully rested on the assurance that it will not become a chore and that it is responsive. That is it can answer all pending questions within a project structure.

For applied theory research project topics, the arrangement usually follows thus


  • Background study
  • Statement of the problem
  • Research Questions
  • Objectives of the study
  • Significant of the study
  • Scope and delimitation of the study
  • An operational definition of terms


Review of related literature

  • Introduction
  • Theoretical framework


Research methodology

  • Introduction
  • Research Design
  • Population of Study
  • Sample and Sampling Techniques
  • Research instrument
  • Administration of questionnaire
  • Validity of instrument
  • Method of data collection
  • Method of data analysis


Data analysis, presentations and discussion of findings

  • Introduction
  • Analysis and Interpretation of questionnaire
  • Discussion of findings


Summary Recommendation and Conclusion

  • Summary
  • Conclusion
  • Recommendation
  • Suggestion for further reading
  • References
  • Appendix


Please note:
Some supervisors may not want project students to come with just a topic for approval; the topic should be at least about three (3) to four (4) project topics  – This will allow the supervisor to pick one of the topics for approval.

more update coming soon

The Counselor
Enebeli Ifeanyi (Counselor) is the founder and editor of His passion for counselling drove him to start this blog with the aim to address students/graduates related issues.
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