Identifying what you want to write about is the first step in writing a report. In some situations, you might be assigned a topic or given a range of topics from which to choose. In other situations, the choice may be completely up to you.
The best way to begin searching for a topic is to conduct some initial research. One way to begin is to review your course textbook(s) for topics that are of interest to you but that might not be covered in great detail during the semester. The table of contents and subject index can help you identify components of a topic. The author index can help you identify leading thinkers in the field. Next, extend this initial topic search by conducting a more complete assessment of the different topics you have in mind with a more complete search using references available at the library or on the Internet.
As you begin your search for a topic, keep the following in mind:
- Select a topic that is of interest to you.
Nothing is more tedious than researching and writing about a topic that is of little interest or relevance to you. Keep in mind that you'll spend a large amount of time on the topic you select. If you've been assigned a topic, find a way to make it interesting and relevant by applying it to areas such as your career goals, political points of view, hobbies, etc.
- Select a topic of which you have some background knowledge.
Learning about a topic or subject in which you have no prior knowledge often requires learning the terminology, jargon, and lexicon of the subject. While it is interesting to learn about new things, make sure that you have the background knowledge necessary to comprehend the articles and books you will be reading. If you have no background knowledge on a topic, plan on spending additional time learning the basics about that topic.
- Select a topic for which you will be able to find references.
If a topic is too current, you may have difficulty finding the references you need to write the report. If the topic is outdated, you may have difficulty finding references that are current (usually "current" means less than five years old). Therefore, as you conduct your initial topic search, make sure you will have access to enough references that will allow you to complete the report.