Crowd Sourcing Ideas for Research Topics and Paths

Crowd Sourcing Ideas for Research Topics and Paths

This discussion-board-based activity helps students narrow down their final RBA research topic by encouraging students to collaborate with each other at the initial stage of conceiving of their RBA projects. This activity gives students the freedom to brainstorm the possible shapes and paths of their RBA before committing to a topic. This ideation process is important to help students avoid getting into a situation where they start the research and writing about a topic that they later dislike or find impossible to handle. This activity “crowd sources” ideas for each student, as students are required to offer suggestions and comments to their classmates, and everyone will receive different sets of ideas from various classmates and the instructor.

Activity title: Crowd Sourcing Ideas for Research Topics and Paths

Author: Yanshuo Zhang

Course: PWR 1 and PWR 2

Activity length and schedule:  This activity takes place at the initial phase of the RBA. It is an asynchronous activity/assignment to be completed under Discussions on Canvas. It can be scheduled immediately after students finish their TiC (PWR 1) or before they start to compose their Research Proposals (PWR 2).

Activity goals: This activity builds class community by allowing students to interact with each other in the process of conceiving of their research projects. Usually, at the initial stage of the research process, students need help with narrowing down their topics. This activity allows students to brainstorm ideas surrounding their topics with each other on Canvas before committing to a final topic. It gives students the freedom to think through the potential shape of their RBA by listing and writing about three possible topics or topic paths. By thinking through the possible paths of their research topics before conducting research, students ascertain that they choose a topic and “topic path” that they can stick with.

Activity details: Students complete this activity as an asynchronous activity/assignment for their RBA. They need to both create a post for their own projects and comment on their classmates’ projects.

Here, students need to distinguish between a research topic and what I call a “topic path.” While a topic indicates the general theme of a research paper, a “topic path” implies the possible directions one could take within a given topic. For example, for the research topic of how college-age young people from single-parent households can thrive, one possible topic path would be to examine what young people themselves could do to thrive in college and at home, while a different path would be what parents from these households could do to minimalize the negative impact of single-parenthood on young people.

Instructions for students:

1.     Please post your three topics by starting a new strand on Discussions on Canvas.

2.     Comment on at least one other person’s topics and offer them some thoughts and suggestions.

3.     For each of your own Research Topic, write out 2-3 possible Topic Paths.

4.     After completing the above steps, reflect on your post as a whole. Write down which Topic(s) and Topic Path(s) seem most fruitful in terms of generating new insights for scholars and the public. You should also weigh in your own interest in each of these Topics and Topic Paths.

5.     In a final paragraph, indicating which Topic(s) and Topic Path(s) you lean toward for your RBA. Aim to have 1-2 Topics and 1-2 Paths within those topics. If there is one Topic and Topic Path that you feel very passionate about committing to, indicate that in your paragraph. If you have further questions or concerns about your Topics and Topic Paths, list them on your post and invite your classmates to help you.

6.     You will receive the instructor’s feedback on the fruitfulness and promise of each Topic and topic Path.

7.     Everyone will post their finalized Topic and Topic Path in a new post later. Your final Topic and Topic Path is the one you’ll commit to in your RBA, though you should feel free to adjust it further as your research progresses.

For more information of this activity and instructions for students, please see here: