This is something I've been struggling with since I found out we have to do a research project on our long TP (roughly in August/September).
But now I've finally got something! I think the best way to go about it is this:
1. Think about what you love, what interests you, what you're passionate about.
I'm a complete bibliophile. I love reading. Seriously. Check out my obsession on Goodreads. I was also horribly upset by the library that had been closed for a year at the township school. So looking at something to do with reading seems the way to go. But how do I narrow it down? How do I turn it into something measurable and worthwhile?
2. Chat to people. Bounce ideas off them, and put out some feelers.
I chatted to my supervisor about all my different ideas regarding this project, and a lot of them bounced right off her and into the "discard" pile. And then today, at the end of a meeting about something completely different, she added, as an afterthought - "Oh, by the way, some people are doing a workshop on a specific method for encouraging reading groups in schools."
3. Check out the scholarly interwebs to see how much literature there is on your vaguely defined topic. Where can you fill in a hole, or give a perspective from your specific community?
I'll admit I haven't done this yet, but it's my next step. For sure. It's totally a good, academic, professional way to go about doing things, isn't it? Right? RIGHT?
There we go. My plan is to implement this method in a township school and see if it is feasible, worthwhile and self-sustaining enough to make up for the clearly inadequate attempts towards the curriculum-mandated extensive reading program. I can track certain learners' marks to see if it makes a difference, and I can interview batches of learners to find out why there doesn't seem to be a reading-for-fun kind of culture in less fortunate schools. I have a few assumptions or guesses already. For example, a lot of these kids are either in very time-consuming after-school volunteer tuition programs, or they are the caregivers for their younger siblings, or their family's attitude to books is that they are either for educational or religious instructional purposes, not for fun. A lot of them don't have electricity to power a lamp in order to read at night. Most of them don't have a room to themselves or a quiet spot in which to read.
But the schools also don't have much in the way of extra-mural activities. The school I went to had a hiking club, a rugby team and a netball team, and that was it. In a school of about 3000 learners, surely not all of them are on the teams. This could be a good thing to do as an extra mural.
So, there we go. I've finally got a research topic/idea. How 'bout you?