Study a topic of interest
Picking a topic is half the battle. Usually, groups preparing a paper will have an initial meeting to determine their topic.
The topic will depend on the knowledge and interests of group members and also on the professor who will accompany the group to the Forum or the professor who is already advising the group.
Some useful hints for picking a topic:
● The most important thing is that those who work on the paper enjoy and learn from the experience. The paper should be an opportunity to reflect on the great intellectual questions for which your day-to-day university studies sometimes don’t leave you much time.
● The best topics are broadly cultural, getting at the fundamental questions of each academic discipline, which influence society and the lives of individuals. These include topics in Economics, Engineering, Health Sciences, and of course, Humanities. Each year the UNIV Forum website provides an extensive list of suggested topics.
● Although writing a paper provides an excellent opportunity to address the big questions, groups don’t need to repeat topics. It is always good to choose a subject or an approach that is attractive because of its originality or novelty.
● Proposing solutions to problems is better than simply criticizing something.
● The paper should be serious and you should support your arguments with the necessary justifications.
● The topic shouldn’t be so general that your paper can’t sufficiently cover it, nor so specialized that it isn’t of interest to students from other disciplines or to the general public.
● Current events have the advantage of being interesting, but be aware that they can become irrelevant within a short period of time.
● If you choose a philosophical or speculative topic, be sure to present the data and evidence necessary to support your arguments.
● If you choose a technical topic based on the study of data, be sure to answer the question that inspired the paper and not to lose sight of the big picture.
● Specify the topic well enough that all members of the group can study the principal questions raised.
On the registration form there are four sections that can help you successfully choose a topic:
● Summary, which requires you to define the problem being studied and to specify the approach or perspective you will adopt.
● Objectives, which help you to think about the various issues that your topic raises and which can help the group to divide the work among group members. Objectives also shed light on:
- The solutions you want to present for the problem being studied.
- New perspectives about an issue that you intend to communicate.
- The knowledge you hope to gain.
● Methodology used to plan the paper:
- Decide whether you will perform a field study, review and discuss the existing literature about your topic, or analyze written or audiovisual material from the press, movies, or literature.
- Determine how the group will function: division of labor, periodic meetings with the group leader, a conference on the subject, etc.
● Bibliography, which lists the books, magazine articles, films, documentaries, websites, etc. you will use. Making this list will help your group decide whether everyone in the group should review everything in the bibliography or whether the materials should be divided between group members and later combined during group meetings. The UNIV Forum website has a section with articles and resources (Material) that may help. Each year we offer an extensive bibliography, which can provide initial guidance or can help you discover interesting articles and books.