Choosing a Topic

At times your professor will provide you with a topic for your writing assignment. This can be a very specific topic (i.e., "Write a Sample Collection Development Policy for the Johnson City Archives"), or it can be more general, only requiring you to stick to a broad subject field (i.e., "Write about a Records Management Issue"). Other times, however, your mission is to complete a certain type of paper, such as an argumentative essay in a research methods course like MALS 5400.

Except for those cases in which your research and writing are steered in a very specific direction, choosing a topic can be challenging for writers. Whenever you're having trouble choosing a paper topic, keep the following suggestions in mind:

Tips For Choosing A Seminar Paper Topic

Choosing A Thesis Or Capstone Project Topic

You may be among the MALS students who come into the program knowing their focus for their thesis or project, and building a program of study around that topic. Or, you might have a general idea of the subjects that interest you, but without a solid thesis or project topic. Whichever camp you fall into, the reality is that your thesis/project topic should remain a priority throughout your graduate school career. This does not mean you need to choose your topic during your first meeting of MALS 5000, nor does it mean you should stubbornly adhere to your first topic idea even if your perspective or interests change or if practical matters (e.g., you couldn't secure funding to study ski culture in the Austrian Alps) prevent you from following your original plan. However, you should be planning your subject-field courses and seminar paper topics with respect to your final culminating experience in MALS.

That said, choosing a thesis or project topic can be intimidating even if you have designed an excellent, cohesive program of study. By definition, this is a big project—you'll be writing anywhere from 25 to 100 pages, conducting extensive research, and defending the last 2+ years of coursework to your committee. Take a deep breath, and consider the following tips to help you stay grounded as you develop a thesis or project topic: