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WRI 10 (Epstein-Corbin): 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:  How is climate change a problem for society? (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, climate change is a pretty broad topic, but looking at the impact of cell phone manufacturing on the environment 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 climate change as an example:

  • climate change and poverty (what)
  • climate change and sea levels (what)
  • climate change and interpersonal relationships (what)
  • climate change and the Arctic Circle (where)
  • climate change and corporations (who)
  • climate change and teenagers (who) and anxiety (what)

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

Question 2:  How can we save the cultural legacies of people who may lose their homes due to rising sea levels? (narrowed)