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Writing 10 (Alonso): Refining Your Research Question

College Reading & Composition

Google Spreadsheet: Your Research Questions

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 does college benefit students? (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 with any depth.

There are many ways to narrow a topic that is too broad by asking one or more W questions +1H (How).  Let's use college as an example:

  • college and privacy (what)
  • college and participation in clubs & extracurricular activities (what)
  • college and life satisfaction post graduation (what)
  • college and non-traditional students (who)
  • college and the United States (where)
  • college and 1940s-1950s (when)
  • college and economic benefits (how)

Most scholarly research examines fairly narrow topics and looks at relationships between concepts.  For example, college is a pretty broad topic, but looking at the relationship between college and student participation in clubs and extracurriculars might be a more manageable topic.

Question 2:  Does participation in clubs and extracurricular activities while in college lead to greater life satisfaction for graduates? (narrowed)

Quiz Question #1

Is this topic too broad, too narrow, or just about right?

How did banks contribute to the current international financial crisis?

Quiz Question #1
Too broad: 16 votes (50%)
Too narrow: 1 votes (3.13%)
Just about right: 15 votes (46.88%)
Total Votes: 32

Quiz Question #2

Is this topic too broad, too narrow, or just about right?

What impact do Olympic heroes have on youth sports programs in Rochester, New York?

Quiz Question #2
Too broad: 0 votes (0%)
Too narrow: 20 votes (80%)
Just about right: 5 votes (20%)
Total Votes: 25

Quiz Question #3

Is this topic too broad, too narrow, or just about right?

How does American food culture shape the eating behaviors of children?

Quiz Question #3
Too broad: 1 votes (3.57%)
Too narrow: 0 votes (0%)
Just about right: 27 votes (96.43%)
Total Votes: 28