Narrowing your topic
Example: I’m thinking of doing a paper on “dance.” This topic could develop in many different ways.
Hint: Ask Yourself Questions About Your Topic:
- What do you know about it? What don’t you know?
- What aspects of your topic interest you: historical, sociological, psychological, etc.?
- What time period do you want to cover?
- On what geographic region do you want to focus?
- What kind of information do you need?
- A brief summary or a lengthy explanation?
- Periodical articles, books, essays, encyclopedia articles?
Sample Topic Narrowing Chart:
General Topic: dance
Time span: 1920s
Place: US; Southern US; New York City
Person or group: youth; flappers; African Americans
Event or Aspects: race; jazz age; Fox Trot
Broadening Your Topic
Example: I’m thinking of doing a paper on “whether genetically altered soybeans are safe for consumers.”
This topic as stated is seeking to answer a question for which there may be no answer yet — more scientific and long-term research may need to be done. How can this be turned into a more manageable topic?
Hint 1: Look for parallels and opportunities for broader associations:
- Could you examine other bioengineered foods, in addition to soybeans?
- Could you think broadly about safety concerns and issues — what might these be?
- Who are the key players in this controversy? Consumer activists? Regulatory agencies like the U.S. FDA? Scientists?
- What other issues are involved in this topic? Such as, how should be foods be labeled?
Hint 2: Brainstorm! (and ask a reference librarian!)
Sample Topic Broadening Chart:
Specific Topic: Are genetically altered soybeans safe for consumers?
Alternate focus: bioengineered or genetically altered foods
Alternate Place: general; US, Europe, Asia
Brainstorm Focus on: Person or Group: consumer advocates vs FDA and scientists
Brainstorm Focus on: Event or Aspect: labeling foods; regulations
Starting Your Research by University of California Santa Cruz, University Library is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Some content has been modified to suit the curricular and research needs of Yale-NUS College. All changes are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.