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Writing 10 (Maharaj): Manage Your Topic

Topic Selection

Finding the Right Scope for Your Topic

Narrow Your Topic or Research Question

It's very common to select a topic or formulate a question that starts out too broad

Question 1:  Is cheating on college papers bad? (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 with any depth. 

Most scholarly research examines fairly narrow topics and looks at relationships between concepts.  For example, plagiarism is a pretty broad topic, but looking at the impact that plagiarism has on mentoring relationships might be a more manageable topic.

There are many ways to narrow a topic that is too broad by asking one or more W questions.  Let's use plagiarism as an example:

  • plagiarism and popular culture (what)
  • plagiarism and interpersonal relationships (what)
  • plagiarism in early education (where)
  • plagiarism and anti-cheating software corporations (who)
  • plagiarism and teenagers (who) and stress (what)

Use W questions, to develop a research question on the topic of plagiarism:

Question 2: Does the way plagiarism is represented in modern popular culture help to normalize it?(narrowed)