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ENG 21011 College Writing II: Education and Culture (Willey): Developing a Research Question

Choosing a Manageable Topic

Choosing and Narrowing your topic


Students often run into problems developing good research questions.

Choosing a manageable topic can be difficult and choosing a too broad or too narrow topic can result in difficulty finding the right resources.

Keep the following in mind when you begin to think about your topic:

  • Is the topic too broad...for instance "Student success in college"...way too broad there are many many aspects that go into creating a successful student...from health, sleep, money, study habits, time management..the list keeps going. Not something you can cover in a 5 page paper. The topic is a good starting point, but it needs to be narrowed to a manageable topic...such as "Does lack of sleep affect the success of students in college".
  • Has the topic you've chosen been researched? Occasionally you'll choose a topic so narrow that there is little to know research from which to draw. For instance..."Steroid use in the students of Tuscarawas county, who play high school football"
  • There is not enough written on your subject. Sometimes you want to write about a topic that is too current. A topic that is too current has not been researched enough to yield much information. Current events are best saved for small speech topics rather than lengthy papers.
  • Take advantage of the extras with our databases. Start broad and use the subject headings in any database to not only narrow your topic but ensure that you will find articles about that topic. 
    For instance: If I want to do a paper on heart disease...that's a very broad topic and I may not know enough about heart disease to know how to narrow the topic.

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