Choosing a topic is easy for experts, because they are already involved in the problems and ideas of their discipline. It is more difficult for beginners. Many students will say that the biggest mistake they made in a paper assignment was to settle on a topic too quickly. Take the time to select a topic!
Remember: picking your topic is part of the research! (see this video: https://www.lib.ncsu.edu/tutorials/picking_topic/)
When exploring, apply your curiosity: ask open-ended questions (see this video: https://video.lib.uwf.edu/research_tutorials/research_questions)
How to look for a topic:
Look for a topic that is not common or typical. Usually the top topics in a database like Opposing Viewpoints are already over-worked. Dig a little deeper to find something fresh.
Once you have some general ideas, it is time to focus. In order to write a coherent paper, you must focus or sharpen your topic by exploring different aspects and problems, or by addressing a question. This handbook give excellent guidance about focusing on pp. 8-9: http://dl.icdst.org/pdfs/files/91389c9e0b17a7298d308e782f72b480.pdf
How to focus:
Even when you have focused your topic, you are still not quite done with this phase. Now it's time to make sure you have something that is not too general and also not too narrow, so you need to check the focus.
How to check the focus:
|Established: consensus||The Sweet Spot - innovation, conversation||Unknown: controversy|
|Already established beliefs and positions||Discussion (agreements, disagreements) based on shared assumptions but differing perspectives about issues/questions||Not enough consensus among experts to allow constructive dialogue|
|Accepted fact||Exploration about what information would contribute to the conversation, and about questions that might lead to tentative answers||Not enough meaningful distinctions or information to agree or disagree|
|"Nothing here to talk about, let's move on!"||"There's something to discuss, and we are still in conversation about perspective or explanation."||"Way out in left field here, or we're talking apples and oranges"|
Only when you have focused are you ready to start exploring and searching for information with your questions in mind.
More help? You might like these pages:
Your choice among types of publications depend on the uses you have in mind for the publication. For example, if you are looking for a strongly argumentative research article, you'd choose a scholarly journal; and for a broad overview of a topic, you'd choose a reference book.