Occasionally, brilliant topic ideas for research will spontaneously fly into the head of a student. More often, however, you need a strategy to guide your thinking and generate more choices. Try the following:
Step 1: Identify the broad, core concepts of your research. If you are researching cross-cultural business communication, these might be culture, business, and communication.
Step 2: Create a table where each core concept has its own column, and add rows down the side for 'who, what, when, where, why, how' questions to get you going.
Step 3: Begin brainstorming the dimensions of each cell to generate sub-topics and areas of focus. Whose culture might we be interested in? What business? When is the communication taking place? Go until you run out of ideas.
Step 4: Combine the dimensions that interest you most by drawing a line through them, and formulate full-sentence questions as possible research topics.
Possible questions resulting from initial brainstorm:
There are a variety of sources for background research on a topic like cross-cultural business communication which can help you brainstorm ideas to fill out a chart like the one to the left, and come up with options for narrowing or choosing a topic.
General sources of background research usually do not need to be cited in your final report. You do not use them to gather information, document facts or build arguments - you just use them to generate ideas and keywords for your topic.
Some suggested sources include:
The table of contents in a book can provide a number of ideas or themes for narrowing your topic. Try your course textbook or browse for books about culture, communication and/or business in the library. You can also check the references list at the end of a book for ideas on further reading and resources.
An encyclopedic reference, such as Wikipedia or Britannica Online can give you an overview of the many sub-topics in an area, and often you don't have to go much further than the article outline/table of contents.
A business encyclopedia might address culture and communication topics from a business angle. Check out this article on cross-cultural management from Wiley's Encyclopedia of Management, for example.