Q: How do I actually select a research topic?
I am currently a 2nd year student of mechanical engineering. I want to publish an article. But I am confused about selecting a topic. What are the facts that I need to look into before selecting a topic? I am interested in mathematics, thermodynamics, material structure, and other subjects that are related to my field. Thank you.
It’s great that you are thinking of writing and publishing an article while still pursuing your grad degree. You clearly wish to get a headstart. :-)
Another good point is that you are clear about your areas of interest. Interest is a very critical factor in topic selection. If you pursue research in something that doesn’t interest you, you will not be able to sustain the research.
Here are a few other aspects (apart from interest) to consider.
- The research should be feasible to conduct. This has dependency on factors such as the need for funding and collaboration and the duration of the study. For instance, as you are still in college, there may be limited funds available to you. Similarly, there may be challenges of time, in case your research needs you to expend efforts over and above those for your studies and projects.
- You should be/become familiar with other studies in your areas of interest, especially recent ones. You will come to know about ‘hot’ directions of research in each area, and whether you’d like to pursue any of these. Additionally, you may come of know of certain gaps in existing studies, which too you may consider exploring in your area. All this will come through keeping abreast of the current literature.
- From the journal perspective, novelty is an essential aspect. Journals like to publish new/emerging research. So, you should become familiar with the new studies that the journals in your areas of interest are publishing. Going through these studies will also help you become familiar with the focus of each journal. So, you can eventually narrow down a few target journals to seek publishing in.
For the various points discussed above, you will find the following resources helpful:
- How to choose a research question
- Don't know where to start? 6 Tips on identifying research gaps
- Tips for effective literature searching and keeping up with new publications
- What is novelty in research?
- How to choose journals for submitting your paper
For others, you may look up the site using the relevant keywords.
All the best for selecting a topic, pursuing that line of research, and eventually, publishing the paper!