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Topic Block - 3 Online Sources for Generating a College Research Topic

Updated on December 23, 2014

This Squid is Out of Ink

Even seasoned writers need inspiration for their next topic once in a while. Certain pressures - deadlines, university assignments - can stymie otherwise gifted students from devising and refining an exceptional proposition. When familiar wells run dry, it's important to harbor an "oasis" from which to cull new ideas. Below are three free, online resources that can be used to accelerate "creative juices" and prompt relevant, provocative compositions.

World Question Center

The World Question Center houses dozens of thoughtful responses to "cutting edge" queries. How is the internet changing the way you think? What scientific idea is ready for retirement? What do you believe is true even though you cannot prove it? A single question is developed annually by Edge, an online community seeking to exalt philosopher cum artist James Lee Byars's maxim: "To arrive at the edge of the world's knowledge, seek out the most complex and sophisticated minds, put them in a room together, and have them ask each other the questions they are asking themselves." Questions are posed to leading philosophers, researchers and scientists in myriad fields and offer readers blunt, thoughtful and sometimes harrowing responses.

Casual readers will relish the "salon" atmosphere drawn from intellectuals converging on a single philosophical theme. Potential topics for research assignments, however, can be drawn from the site's more incendiary queries: what will change everything? What's your dangerous idea? What is today's most important unreported story? These questions are certain to draw opinions from otherwise apathetic audiences and make for rich fodder in devising compelling propositions.

Top 100 Debates

The International Debate Education Association (I.D.E.A.) has assembled its "Top 100" debates on a diverse range of popular resolutions - animal testing, controlled substance legalization, health care reform. Within each link is a broad base of "pret a porter" contentions for both sides of the argument, member voting results and (jackpot!) a bibliography to key research articles and writings.

For writers overcoming stiff deadlines, the site provides obvious benefits, a "head start" on research sources, possible main points and demographic analysis on the typical reader or spectator's response to a given position. Beyond such self-evident appeal, however, is the writer's chance to encounter opposition arguments for particularly contentious or provocative propositions.

The Year of Outrage

For an entire year, the current events magazine Slate chronicled the most incendiary or "outrageous" daily occurrence according to social media feedback. Topics run the gamut from human rights violations to turtle decapitation. Each entry features a simple meter for gauging the level of outrage generated by the respective event and a link to related items such apologies (or conspicuous absence thereof) undertaken by involved parties.

At first blush, the site may seem little more than ammunition for watercooler gossip. Closer inspection allows astute readers to map trends in major issues - discrimination, health care reform, gender equality - often veiled through daily buzz. Such relationships can make for attention getting anecdotes in otherwise antiseptic compositions. Careful writers can easily link trends together to devise original, provocative and up-to-the-minute topics for an array of assignments.

Let the Hunt Begin!

Know any other online resources for generating original topics? I look forward to your comments and thank you in advance for any kind words. Check out my other Hub Pages for additional suggestions for navigating college assignments by working smart instead of merely working hard.


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