Research Help

Research Help Tutorial:
Narrowing a Topic

Picking a topic that meets your paper requirements and interests you can be hard. Your professor may have pick a topic, like Psychology, Green Technologies or you may have to just come up with a topic that interests you on a current issue. Besides thinking of a topic that you are interested in, you’ll need to also find a topic that you can take a stand on or make a point about.

Pick a topic that is not to broad for the assignment. You’ll need to have a topic that is narrow enough so that you CAN make a point about. Choosing a topic like green technologies will leave you meandering all over the place in your paper because your point or stand won’t be focused. For example, Bullying is not an appropriate topic. There are a so many aspects of bullying, such as school violence, suicide & depression, policies, prevention, legal action, parent intervention, school intervention etc., that you could write a book about it.

Find one aspect of the topic that can help focus the topic such as: The role of cyber-bullying on depression and suicide. This is still a big topic but it is more appropriate for a short research paper. However, be careful that you don’t get too specific! For instance a topic such as "the role of cyber-bullying on depression and suicide on elementary school children in Mississippi" is too narrow and you’ll have trouble finding books and articles on it.

When you don’t have any idea of where to begin, what do you do? You can start the way you probably always do: on the Internet. Wikipedia may not be the best resource to get your information but it can really narrow down the issues. Once you have an idea of the issues you would like to expore within a topic, enter the issues as keyword searches, along with the topic, in one of our databases.

Two places to check out your new topic and possible supporting points are CQ Researcher and Academic Search Premier. Try searching for a topic without keywords, you will see you receiev a broad range of results. If you add keywords to your topic, such as "bullying, school violence and legal action", you will see your search results will have narrowed dramatically.

To Review:
You can pick a general topic, like ADHD, teen suicide, green technologies, or homelessness but those topics are too broad for short paper. Use websites and resources like CQ Researcher to narrow down your topics. Pick a topic you can take a stand on or make a point about. Search databases on your topic to find articles and books on your more specific topic.

This will make searching for resources AND writing your paper easier.