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FIU Choosing a Research Topic Paper

FIU Choosing a Research Topic Paper


As we begin the first unit of the course, it is important to first identify your research topic. As you think about potential topics, remember that 1) your research topic should have multiple perspectives or ideas, and 2) your research topic should be interesting to you. 

This assignment is meant to help you pick a topic for the rest of the semester. If you aren’t sure why you need a topic for the whole semester, please revisit the Researching Rhetorically in the 21st C. assignment sheet. 

Importantly, “in real life,” whether at work or in our personal life, we don’t pick topics off the top of our head. We usually come to them one of two ways: 

  1. We encounter information about the topic (for example, in news headlines) and decide that it’s personally relevant to us or intriguing to us, so we decide to look into the topic further. 
    • For example, as a South Floridian, I learn that my county is considering major changes to the bus routes and that I will be asked to vote on these changes, so I look into the current routes, the proposed changes, and what the differences would mean. The situation may cause me to consider a puzzle (“why do we need new bus routes?; “how should we pay for these changes?) or a problem (“traffic in this area is so bad–is this the best solution?”)
    • Or, I learn from a friend that the COVID vaccine scientific discoveries are leading to breakthroughs that will lead to a cure for cancer. Curious, I decide to look into how and why; this leads me to consider the relative pros and cons of this new advancement. 
  2. We encounter a problem in our own lives that needs solving. 
    • For example, after being unemployed for a while, I decide I either need to move back in with my parents or find a way to get government assistance until I can get back on my feet. I decide to look into unemployment benefits and food assistance, as well as the cost of moving back home, so that I can better weigh my options. 
    • Or, I learn that Broward schools is going changing it’s online learning policy; since I’m a parent, I decide to look up what that would mean for kids who are currently learning virtually and to find more details of the plan, so that I can better understand if I should support it or oppose it.

In short, the best research topics start from a real problem or question. As the examples above also illustrate, a good research question is one where you do not already know the answer. If I already knew whether I was going to move home or try to get government assistance, why would I spend time looking up information? This assignment is an opportunity to look into something you do not understand and spend the semester learning about it.


For this assignment, you will pick a topic for the rest of the semester. In order to test out whether your topic is actually interesting to you, and whether or not you can find research about it, this discussion asks you to find a useful source about your proposed topic to share. Looking up and reading these sources should also give you more specific language to talk about your topic.

**You may look back to our introduction discussion to see if any of the three topics you mentioned there are worth exploring here.  You may do this optional free write to help you pick a topic.**

Note: I strongly prefer a topic that is personal and interesting to you over a “school” topic. For example, I’d rather see a fashion design student explore “fast fashion” or a Puerto Rican student explore what’s behind the power outages in Puerto Rico than see another generic school topic (climate change, gun control, etc). It will make this class far more interesting for you if you care about your topic. 

  1. Review Guidelines for Choosing a Topic in order to pick a topic that will work for this semester, then do the following:
    • State the problem/puzzle that you want to focus your research on this semester. 
    • Describe any concerns that you have about whether it will work for you or not
    • State any questions that you have about the problem/puzzle.
  2. Present your topic:
    • Why are you interested in this puzzle or problem? In what specific ways does this topic connect to your personal, academic, professional, or cultural life?
    • Why is this issue/topic important beyond your own life? Who is impacted by this problem?  In what way? Why is it important for society to solve this problem or understand this issue? 
    • A strong research topic will have multiple perspectives/ideas to explore. What are some of the potential perspectives related to your research topic? 
  3. Find one source related to your chosen problem/puzzle. This can be a news article, journal article, book chapter, opinion piece, etc. However, it should be a reliable and credible source–because you want to demonstrate that it was easy for you to find a reliable and credible source about your topic. This source should be related to your topic and of interest to you. 
  • Share the hyperlink for the source. 
  • Introduce the source (title, author) and explain in a few sentences the rhetorical context for the source (who was it written for, where was it published, what is it responding to, etc). 
  • Explain in a few sentences the overall argument of the source. 
  • Explain how this source is related to your chosen topic and explain what questions it generates for you. What are you interested in looking into next? What questions do you have after reading it? 

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