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
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.