Identifying hot topics for research

Making smart decisions about what to study is critical to a successful research career, and can be one of the hardest challenges for a scientist.

A hot topic is any research area that many people will find interesting. It can be:

  • A puzzling phenomenon
  • An unsolved mystery about the world
  • A new technology
  • A problem needing better solutions

The ability to identify hot topics can help you:

  • Make decisions about what to study
  • Obtain funding for research
  • Identify top researchers in your field
  • Find important publications
  • Explain to others why your work is important

One good method for finding hot topics is to look for issues that cause problems for other researchers.

Begin by searching for and reading literature in your field. Start with general interest journals, but don’t limit yourself to journal publications only; you can also look for clues in the news or on research blogs. Once you have identified a few interesting topics, read journal manuscripts related to that area of work. Review papers are extremely helpful for this purpose.

If possible, communicate with some of the authors of these manuscripts. Often, talking with the author of an important work in your research area will give you more ideas than just reading the manuscript would. Going to conferences is a great way to meet some of these authors.

Once you have set your research goals, use your unique skills and resources to address the challenges in the field. This will help you produce timely manuscripts of interest to a large audience.

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