Writing a research paper can be both fun and challenging, but sometimes it is difficult to know where to start.
The first question to ask yourself: what is the purpose of the assignment? Look over the assignment prompt carefully. If you have questions about this, ask your instructor. Once you understand the scope of the assignment, you can then proceed to choose a topic.
The second, and perhaps most important question to ask yourself: what am I interested in? A paper about a topic you are interested in will be more enjoyable for you to write. Because you enjoyed writing about the topic, you will have a stronger final paper.
Think about the works you have read in this unit. Which ones interest you? Is there more than one work you enjoyed reading? It is okay to enter the research process unsure of which work you want to write about. If you are considering two or three different works, do some background research on each. This may help you decide which topic you want to pursue further.
If you're still stuck, brainstorming may be helpful. This is sometimes called pre-writing. The following sources can help you learn different brainstorming techniques:
If you prefer to talk out your ideas, discussing your strategy with a classmate or your instructor can be helpful. Having some things written down and then bouncing ideas off of friends, colleagues, and instructors can provide you with valuable feedback.
And, of course, if you feel completely lost, talk your instructor. They can help steer your towards an appropriate topic.
In order to focus the research process, it is best to ask a research question to help guide your search. This enables your paper to stay on topic as you, the researcher, are seeking information that serves this specific purpose. Of course, as you do more research, the question may change or become more nuanced. This is completely normal and a sign that you have learned from the process.
The video below explains how to write a strong research question.
The Purdue OWL has an excellent resource on writing about literature. It covers how to create an argument/clear thesis statement, good topics for literature papers, and how to get started with the research process.