“Just tell me what you want me to write about!”
Every time I sit staring blankly at a computer screen trying to choose a topic for an essay or research paper, these are the words I mentally scream in frustration. The ability to choose your own paper topic is both a blessing and a curse. Who wants to be told what to write about when there are so many great topics to explore? On the other hand, when you are taking four classes and feeling stressed about getting it all done struggling with choosing the perfect topic is just another burden.
I no longer face this problem as a student. Instead, the issue of developing a good topic idea emerges as I try to decide what to write about for our blog or what kind of examples to use in class. When working with the Sciences, I find the resources listed below to be excellent ways to discover interesting topics. I encourage you to check them out!
The articles in this publication are easy to read and highlight the latest research in various fields of science. Simply browsing the titles generated ideas for topics. A recent issue included articles about how finger lengths relate to personality traits, why critical thinkers lose their faith in God, and what it sounds like when a rat laughs. Those are great starting points for a topic, right?
The articles in Scientific American do not provide enough information to write a scholarly research paper, but they do identify articles and researchers who will provide more in-depth and scholarly information on a topic.
Science Magazine and Nature
These are two science journals that look like general consumer magazines, but any scientist would be overjoyed to have an article accepted for publication in these scholarly journals. Again reviewing the table of contents will provide the inspiration you need to get your paper started. Plus, not only do the articles in the journals provide some of the best quality of information for your paper, but they also cite other related articles you may want to look up and use.
Current issues of Science Magazine are located in the Main Reading room of the library. Look on the shelves on the wall attached to the terrace and locate Science alphabetically by title. McCain Library has older (before 2006), searchable versions of the full text of Science online in databases like JSTOR, Science & Technology Collection, and Academic Search Complete. Though the current articles are not accessible online through McCain Library, you can browse the table of contents and read brief descriptions in Science & Technology Collection.
Another quick way to see a range of interesting topics is to browser the science section of the Reference selves or look at some of the science encyclopedias in a database called Credo Reference. These sources will provide easy to read articles on well-established areas of scientific research. Unfortunately, these articles are not really appropriate as information sources to support any arguments you may make in your research papers, but they do help you quickly understand the terminology you will need to know to be able to read the more scientific and scholarly articles. Often these articles also point you to scholarly articles that will be useful for your paper.