Narrow or broaden a topic

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 understand?
  • What aspects of your topic interest you: historical, sociological, psychological, etc.?
  • What period do you want to cover?
  • On what geographic region do you want to focus?
  • What kind of information do you need?
  • A summary or a lengthy explanation?
  • Periodical articles, books, essays, or encyclopedia articles?
  • What data sets or statistics do I need?

Sample Topic Narrowing Chart:

General Topic: Environment
Time span: Past, current or future projections
Place: North or South/Polar regions/Arctic or Antarctic/Particular continents, regions or countries
Person or group: Humans/Animals/Plants
Event or Aspects:
 Extinction/Degradation/Political/Economic/Social/Pollution (PESTLE)

Broadening Your Topic

Example: I’m thinking of doing a paper on “Environmental issues in Singapore.”

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:

Read and research about

  • Aspects: examples are deforestation, land reclamation, and pollution.
  • Each aspect: examples are urbanisation, industrialisation, extinction, and loss of seeds for deforestation.
  • Who is impacted and how: animals such as mammals, insects, butterflies, reptiles and other affected by deforestation, and reversible or irreversible damage.
  • Government agencies, scholars, writing in these areas, non-government agencies, and individuals.

Hint 2: Brainstorm! The Yale-NUS librarians are available to meet with you for research consultations.

Sample Topic Broadening Chart:

Topic: Environmental issues in Singapore

  • A different focus: environmental issues in neighbouring countries impacting Singapore
  • Different places: Indonesia and Malaysia
  • Focus on: economic prioritisation versus health prioritisation


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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.