Topics and Questions

Finding a topic is scary for many a researcher. The topic, rather than being a starting point can often be the a…. point in your research – once you’ve experimented with many different ideas, concepts, and themes.

If only it was as simple a school and we had to write about what we did over the weekend. But if we worked with that idea for a moment? You had to decide about what to include when you told the story of your weekend. You reflected on your weekend. Thinking back helped you consider moments/events. You told the story in a particular order – sometimes chronologically or maybe you start with the most interesting part and work back. Do I include brushing my teeth? No, that’s something I usually do. Maybe I saw an interesting movie, met someone new, rode my bike. It had to be something I thought was interesting, and maybe I thought others would find it interesting too. Maybe that’s a good place to start. Is there an idea or area that you’ve found interesting. Now hold it there. Consider the idea for a moment. What are its features? How do you know this? Is there something you don’t know about it?

Instead of telling the entire story of your weekend why not just tell the story of the movie? This element is particularly curious, interesting because it was a black and white movie. Now you’re working with this particular thing, and you ask more questions about it, relating it to other things. But at each point you’re asking questions about a particular topic. This may not be the topic you stick with, you can’t be sure, but it’s something that holds your interest because you’re not quite sure yet.

The title of your research product (examples may include an article, paper or thesis) and the various research topic/s you could have or had are not necessarily the same, but they can be related.

Let’s look at the following masters thesis title

Altered bone metabolism in the protein deprived rat.

 The researcher may have started with a general interest in protein deficiency. After reading, working, and exploring this area further the author may have then found that there were various studies on protein deficiency, but that protein deficiency and the skeleton would be a rich area to explore. The topic may not necessarily capture the research question. So lets think about a way of establishing a relationship between protein deficiency and bone metabolism. This makes these concepts act. They may act on one another: Possibly, a question that reflects this title is: How does protein deprivation alter….? Maybe we already know that there is a link between protein bone metabolism but what if we didn’t

 Do protein levels have a….

Maybe we first need to establish a correlation

Is there a correlation between….


But certainly there were various questions guiding this topic, some before and after the topic was established. Think about initial questions at a basic level:

What are the effects of protein deficiency?

What do various studies say?

When were these various studies conducted?

Who conducted them?

What kinds of techniques did they use?

These questions take us into a review of literature – perhaps signalling that the review of literature is not a once off process.