A research paper is different from a research proposal (also known as a prospectus), although the writing process is similar. Research papers are intended to demonstrate a student’s academic knowledge of a subject. A proposal is a persuasive piece meant to convince its audience of the value of a research project. Think of the proposal as the pitch and the paper as the finished product.
Although you may be limited by specific classroom or work related guidelines, choosing your topic is the first and most important step in your research paper project. Regardless of whether your topic can be anything you want or has rigid requirements, it is important to keep a few questions in mind: Is there enough research available on this topic? Is the topic new and unique enough that I can offer fresh opinions? Is it pertinent to my class/occupation?
If you choose a topic, begin researching, and realize that it isn’t the right decision for you for some reason, don’t fret! Although it requires a bit more time, you have the ability to change your topic even after you begin researching others.
The good news is, once you reach this point in the process you’re likely to feel energized by all the ideas and thoughts you’ve uncovered in your research, and you’ll have a clear direction because you’ve taken the time to create a thesis statement and organize your presentation with an outline.