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Writing 10 (Van Bebber): Manage Your Topic

Topic Selection

From Topic to Research Question using Who, What, When, Where, Why & How

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:  To what extent is fast food 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 of with any depth. 

Most scholarly research examines fairly narrow topics and looks at relationships between concepts.  For example, fast food is a pretty broad topic, but looking at the relationship between fast food and marketing 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 fast food as an example:

  • fast food and marketing (what)
  • fast food and schools (what)
  • fast food and teenagers (who)
  • fast food and the United States (where)

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

Question 2:  How does fast food marketing in schools have an impact on teenagers' academic success? (narrowed)