Students in their senior years in college as well as the graduate school are usually required to come up with their thesis in partial fulfillment of the requirements of their course. For many students, this is a gargantuan task unless a systematic approach is applied to it.
If you are one of those facing this seemingly Research Methods insurmountable task, the probable reasons could be 1) you did not digest fully what was discussed in your research and statistics class, 2) you are not thoroughly familiar with the tools of research, or 3) you are at a loss on what research topic you would like to focus on. I address the third one because the other two will be resolved as you go along.
Here are three ways on how to identify your research topic to get yourself going.
Step 1. Review your notes and recall meaningful or interesting experiences.
You are not alone when asked by a classmate about your research topic and you answered back that your problem is your research problem. There is no need for you to feel this way, get in a state of confusion or get discouraged.
You can easily come up with a lot of topics just by reviewing your lecture notes and recalling field experiences. Recall those topics or experiences that excited you or gained your interest.
Just make a quick list. Do not question or filter out what pops up in your mind. List only the keywords or two to three-word phrases that can represent the idea you have in your mind.
Use a pencil in writing your ideas on a clean sheet of paper. This is necessary for you to be able to apply Step 2.
Step 2. Prepare a mind map.
From your list of topics, identify a central theme or idea. It is possible that you have a wide range of ideas listed down. Select the three most appealing ideas and from those three, select the one that appeals to you most.
Write your chosen topic or idea at the center of another clean sheet of paper. Make the characters bigger than the other ideas you will consequently connect to it.
Connect the other related ideas or topics you have identified with your central idea or topic. As you lift those ideas from your original list, erase them so that you will not list those ideas or topics twice.
Now, this is what you call your mind map. The mind map outlines more or less your research topic. This will help you develop your conceptual framework.
Step 3. Review relevant literature related to the ideas you have incorporated in your mind map.
It is easy to find your related literature in this age of information. Just type the keyword or phrase in your mind map in the search box of your favorite search engine.
Google, Yahoo, or Bing are the major search engines. Each of these search engines have different algorithms or method in displaying queries so explore your topics using all of them.
To access full papers related to your topics, type [your keyword] + [pdf]. There is a good chance you will land on a web page with substantial information in it. On the average, online articles range from 400 to 600 words. This is the average number of words read by internet surfers. And you are not an ordinary surfer but someone who wants more information than anybody else.
Be keen in reading those materials presented to you. Your main goal in reading them is to identify the specific variables that the author studied. This will give you an idea on which variables are not yet well explored.