Choosing An Effective Research Article Topic

The challenges of choosing a specific research article topic can be daunting to a new scholar. You want one that is interesting to you and emerges from your current area of research. At the same time, it should be new, innovative, and valuable to the field. Here are some strategies to help produce a dynamic, effective research topic:

Narrow your area

While the overarching topic may be broad, your research should be far more specific. Let’s say the broad topic of your current research is 21st century business practices in the United States. This provides a starting point but must be made more specific. Here, you should broadly research larger discussions in the field’s major journals to help you conceive of a narrower focus. For example:

  • What are some of the major discussions in the field around contemporary American business practices?
  • What are the current questions being asked of research on American business practices?
  • How are articles on these practices categorized? Through location, time period, or specific kinds of businesses?
  • What are the major theoretical and/or practical debates within the field of business?

Engage with an active conversation

Whether produced by graduate students just beginning their careers or seasoned full professors, journal articles are part of an already existing conversation among scholars. Importantly, your conclusions should be new to the discussion. However novel they may seem to you, your ideas may have already been discussed in the field’s major journals. To avoid this, you’ll want to conduct an in-depth search on your topic. The best topic introduces new ideas and materials, but is linked—and related to—current studies and scholarly arguments

In this way, your research article topic must be small enough that it can be reasonably discussed within the length of a journal article but large enough so that it remains relevant for other scholars involved in the discussion. For example, the effects of 21st century business practices in Houston’s privately-owned convenience stores may be too narrow to work as a research topic—you may want to spread out to all privately owned regional shops. Or, if you do wish to use Houston’s privately owned convenience stores as a very narrow case study, you must link this research back to the larger questions at play in the field. Isolate your research topic according to what’s appropriate and necessary to the field.

Make it practically achievable

Lastly, you want to make sure your research article topic is achievable within your resources and timeline. If you are conducting an analysis of completed primary research or a particular new reading of an older text, it’s a shorter project than if you are conducting your own primary field research. Ask yourself:

  • Do you have the time needed for the project’s scope?
  • Do you need IRB approval before beginning?
  • Does the project require travel or fieldwork, lab research, data modelling, etc?