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Spark: Visual Piety (Tran): Picking Your Topic

Selfies of the Divine

PIcking Your Topic IS Research

North Carolina State University (NCSU) Libraries, 3:10

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:  What do the arts mean? (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, the arts is a pretty broad topic, but looking at the relationship between the arts and religion 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 art as an example:

  • arts and spirituality (what)
  • arts and folklore (what)
  • arts and religious people (who)
  • arts and the United States (where)

Use how, what, or where (two or three) to develop a research question on the topic of the arts:

Question 2:  What makes painting such a powerful medium for spiritual expression? (narrowed)


Narrow your Research Question with the 5 Ws