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Writing 001 (Pravin): Manage Your Topic

Academic Writing

Finding the Right Scope for Your Topic

Narrow Your Topic

It's very common to select a topic that's too broad.  When the scope of your topic is too big, it's hard to dig through the huge volume of  information available to find something relevant.  It's also hard to write a paper or give a presentation of with any depth.  Most scholarly research examines fairly narrow topics and looks at relationships between concepts.  For example, free speech is a pretty broad topic, but looking at the relationship between free speech and racism might be a more manageable topic.

There are many ways to narrow a topic that is too broad.  Let's use free speech an example:

  • free speech and the racism (what)
  • free speech and the ACLU (who)
  • free speech and college campuses (where)
  • free speech and China (where)
  • free speech in the 1960s (when)

    Topics & Suggested Terms

    Should English be the official language of the United States?
    "language policy"
    "official language"
    nationalism
    "english only movement"
    monolingualism

    Should literary works be edited to avoid offending persons or groups?
    "literature - study and teaching"
    "political correctness"
    revisionism
    censorship
    copyright
    "huckleberry finn"

    Should free speech be protected in all cases?
    "hate speech"
    racism
    homophobia
    anti-semitism
    anti-islam

    Should journalism cover the personal lives of politicians?
    "journalistic ethics"
    "freedom of the press"
    privacy
    "right of privacy"
    "mass media"
    gossip

    Are issues forgotten when they are ignored by the media?
    "media influence"
    "mass media"
    "political influence"
    "public opinion"
    "social influence"
    "opinion leaders"
    "public agenda"

    Are health and illness influenced by social and economic factors?
    "health disparities"
    "health and welfare"
    socioeconomics
    "socioeconomic factors"
    lifestyle
    "health behaviors"

    Try Academic Search Complete > Subject Terms to find subject headings for your topic.