Narrowing Your Topic Without Losing Your Mind

I’m studying this year (in Research Science 2) alongside the Research Science 1 students; this is all of their first times doing “real” research and they’re at that point where they have an idea that’s good but still frustratingly abstract.

One girl in my class approached me about a week ago with a worried expression and wide eyes… “When will I know what I want to study?” she asked. I guess I gave her a confused look because she quickly corrected herself: “I mean, when did you know what you wanted to study?”

That got me thinking…

1. Write out a list of 5 things you’re interested in.

I hope this is self-explanatory, but your list should NOT look like this:

I’m glad you’re friends with Joe and I actually encourage you to continue eating pizza, but…come on.

Something like this is a great starting point (notice “Playing xbox” is still in there…you’ll see why):

Okay, awesome. Then fill in 2-3 ideas surrounding each of your 5 topics- questions, random thoughts about the topic, things you know about it…

Now get out there and find some answers!!

For now don’t worry if you think your question has already been answered or not. Just write whatever first comes to mind.

2. Talk to people. As simple as this sounds, the more people you talk to about your project the more insight you’ll gather and the more potential help you’ll receive.

Even if you don’t have a solidified idea yet, just throwing ideas out there often works. (“Oh yeah, I worked with thyroid cancer cells once! Maybe my college professor will answer some questions for you! Here’s his email address…”) Congrats, you are now 82634876 steps closer to starting your project than you were 3 minutes ago.

3. Go to this website or this website or this website or this website (for kids) or this website  for ideas. The importance of keeping up with current science events in order to choose a topic of study can’t be stressed enough.

Enjoy and hit the contact page for extra advice or help!

‘Til next time.

P.S.- Take some time to check out this article from the NY Times… It’s one of those articles I read that really just hit me.

BAM. And now I understand.

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