By Michael Fanning

When you’re tasked with writing an original research paper, where do you start? How do you hit upon a unique idea? And once you do, how do you go about researching a topic that hasn’t yet been studied?

Bridget Waldron, a recent graduate of Georgetown’s Sports Industry Management program, faced that very dilemma while she was researching the intersection of social media and sports event management.

“I was researching social media in a different context, but it got me thinking how security could be improved by these platforms,” Waldron said.  “I learned from my research that social media is becoming a best practice among event managers.  These platforms also are being used for security purposes as well as venue upkeep and management.”

Social media as a security measure is a relatively untapped research area — yet Waldron was able to submit a comprehensive presentation, “The Role of Social Media Platforms in Security and Event Operations.”

How did she do it? We asked.

What advice would you give to students looking for a new angle?

Talk to people currently in the industry. Scholarly sources tend to approach a topic from one angle/perspective, but experts who work in the field are immersed in your topic every day. By talking with experts, you can hear about a topic from an angle that you might not have thought of.

How do you avoid getting discouraged by a lack of information?

An easy way to stay motivated when struggling to find information is to look for sources in places you might not expect.

For example, when researching my topic, I went on LinkedIn and searched for articles there. This was really beneficial because I found a valuable article and was able to connect with the author to discuss it further.

What is the benefit of researching something brand new?

In a lot of ways, it simplifies the process. Sometimes, I think a topic can be over-researched to the point where it is easy to become overwhelmed with the amount of information available — it makes it difficult to really narrow down your topic into a workable thesis or main idea.

When a topic is “new,” it simplifies that process and gives the researcher free rein to create a project that really aligns with their interests.

“In the end,” Waldron said, “the information on this topic is out there. It was just difficult to find sometimes. Find a topic that you are really interested in, and then see where the path leads you.”

What are some other ways to research for originality?

Michael Fanning is an instructor for the master’s in the Sports Industry Management program at the Georgetown University School of Continuing Studies.