Choosing a Research Topic in the Field of Social Science

Once in your final year, then you start thinking of your project work without which you will not be awarded the university degree (Graduate and Post-graduate). Coming up with a topic therefore becomes an issue especially as an undergraduate because you do not have an experience of it before. As such, becomes a dilemma because you do not know how to go about it. This is therefore the aim of this article- to in its simplest form, take you through how to choose a research topic that will not later on give you issues when you start.

The First Step

In coming up with topics, it is advisable to go through the theme and sub-theme of your department so as to have a glimpse of what you want to do and which interests you. Then, you need to read widely on any of the sub themes that interest you. It might look like a waste of time to you in reading, but it is the best thing you can do for yourself in order to equip yourself with all the necessary knowledge you need.

Choosing a Secondary Data Project Topic

The main point of a secondary data topic is the availability of data for your variables. If you choose a topic in which the data is not available and you already finished chapter 1 to 3, you will have to rubbish all you have done and you will have to go back and start afresh with a new topic. Availability of data is key- No data, No Project. In searching for the availability of data, the CBN, NBS, World Bank and IMF are the relevant agencies. For example, if you chose a topic as “Impact of taxation on revenue generation in Nigeria”, then Revenue will be your dependent variable (because total revenue depends on the amount earned from tax, an increase in tax will lead to an increase in revenue and vice versa) while Company Income Tax, Value Added Tax, PAYE tax, and Petroleum Profit Tax should logically be your independent variables. You can also check on previous projects with topics like that or close to that so as to see the kind of variables they used in measuring their independent variables.

In our assumed case, we already know our independent variables. Therefore, our next step is to go to the relevant agencies to check if we will get data on them (say from 1981 to 2018). By default, the CBN annual report should be your first point of contact for data as the data states from 1981, for the different variables and are updated every year. You can click HERE to download the latest CBN statistical bulletins. From public finance statistics to financial sector, to real sector, and business expectations surveys, you should get data on almost all the macroeconomic variables of Nigeria which you need.

Once you can confirm the availability of data for your dependent and independent variable, then you can go ahead to begin writing your project once your topic is approved by your supervisor. And to begin, do not forget to read extensively so as to have much knowledge on what to write and avoid plagiarizing the content of other researchers as plagiarism is a serious offence in academics and its penalty is “Death by Hanging”. To read about your topic, you can simple search online to get the PDF copies of previous works done related to your topic and start reading them one by one. I can assure you that once you read, the rest of the writing process will be very easy for you.

Choosing a Primary Data Project Topic

A primary data is a kind of data collected by a researcher directly from the field. This can be collected either through questionnaires, interviews, Focus Group Discussions, observations and surveys. Choosing a primary data project topic however, can be confusing at times because you might not be able to distinguish between a primary data and secondary data topic. However, logic still applies to everything. For instance, say you want to write on the impact of drug abuse on students’ academic performance. Here, your dependent variable is Students’ Academic Performance while your independent variable is Drug Abuse. This means that the academic performance of a student is dependent on his or her abuse of drugs. You can measure academic performance by CGPA or GPA which can be gotten from the department or the school of sample, and can also be gotten through the administration of questionnaires to the students. In this case, we know the school or department might feel reluctant to release the GPAs of the students. As such, you know that administration of questionnaire is your best bet- Primary Data. For drug abuse, I cannot think of any readily available secondary data from 1981 till date that can be used to measure that. Therefore, all you need will be some questions in your questionnaire which can be used to measure drug abuse. Such questions can be:

  1. What kinds of drugs do you take? Alcohol, Marijuana, Tobacco
  2. How often do you take alcohol?
  3. How often do you take Marijuana?
  4. How often do you take Tobacco? Etc

And then you can go on performing your regression analysis or other kinds of analysis based on the responses gotten from your questionnaire. And as usual, make sure to read previous works on any topics which you chose as it will make you have an idea of what you want to start, and makes it easy for you to write when you eventually start based on the approval of your supervisor.

It is also pertinent to note that a major factor that determines the kind of project topic you choose is the supervisor. Some project supervisors prefer their supervisees doing primary data project while some supervisors prefer secondary data project. So you should also know the kind of supervisor you have, majorly by asking from previous supervisees as they are your best bet in making you know how to be dealing with your supervisor because your grade eventually resides with the supervisor.

About Gifted Hands Associates

Gifted Hands Associates operates under the name Gifted Hands.  Gifted Hands is an Independent Economic Research Group that carries out independent research on data as released by the relevant government agencies (NBS, CBN, DMO, World Bank and IMF). It also assists and provide tips to undergraduates and Postgraduate students carrying out research work in the field of economics and other social sciences discipline. Gifted Hands also write business plans/proposals, project financials of start-ups into the future, write CVs and cover letters, as well as Train students on the use of Economic Analysis software such as Eviews, STATA and SPSS.

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