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Taboret: Your Topic

Selecting your Topic


The research process is more relevant if you care about your topic.

- Narrow your topic to something manageable. If your topic is too broad, you will find too much information and not be able to focus. Background reading can help you choose and zoom in the scope of your topic.

 - Review the guidelines on topic selection outlined in your assignment.  Ask your professor or instructor for suggestions.

- Refer to lecture notes and required texts to refresh your knowledge of the course and assignment.

- Discuss research ideas with a friend.  They might be able to help you focus your topic by discussing issues that you might not have considered.

Consider the Following:

WHY did you choose the topic?  What interests you about it?  Do you have an opinion on your topic?

WHO are the information providers on this topic?  Who might publish information about it?  Who is affected by the topic?  Do you know of organizations or institutions affiliated with the topic?

WHAT are the major questions for this topic?  Is there a debate going on about the topic?  Are there a range of issues and viewpoints to consider?

WHERE is your topic important: at the local, national or international level?  Are there specific places affected by the topic?

WHEN is / was your topic important?  Is it a current event or an historical issue?  Do you want to compare your topic by time periods?

Thank you!

We are grateful to MIT for agreeing to our adapting their "Selecting a Research Topic" Guide on this page .  Thank you !


Picture: "Eye of Time" Watch by Salvador Dali

Salvador Dali (1904-1989).  "Eye of Time"  Watch with enamel face and diamonds. ARTSTOR

Need Help?

If you need help with the scope of your topic, ASK your HPU Librarians!

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Leather & Metal Belt

Picture: Day Belt made by Elsa Schiaparelli

Elsa Schiaparelli (1890-1973).  Day Belt, ca.1938.  ARTSTOR.

Narrow your Topic's Scope


Make your results list more manageable.  Less, but more relevant information is the key.  Here are some options to consider when narrowing the scope of your paper:

- Theoretical approach:  Limit your topic to one particular approach to the issue.

- Aspect or sub-group:  Zoom in and consider only one piece of the subject.

- Time:  Limit the time span you are examining.

- Population group:  Limit by age, sex, race, etc.

- Geographical location:  A geographic analysis can provide a useful means to examine an issue.  

Broaden your Topic


Think of related ideas, or read some additional background information.  You may not be finding enough information for several reasons:

-  Your topic is too specific.  Try generalizing what you are looking for.

-  Your topic is too new for anything substantive to have been written.  If you are researching a trending  design, you will most likely only find information about it in the news media. Be sure to search databases that contain articles from newspapers. If you are not finding enough in the news media, consider switching to an older topic that has been written about more extensively.

-  You might not have checked enough databases for information.  Consider using databases from outside your discipline, which might provide a fresh perspective on your topic.

-  You are using uncommon words or too much jargon to describe your topic.  Use a thesaurus to find other terms to represent your topic. When reading background information, see how your topic is described. Use citations in articles or books, to see how the topic is expressed by experts in the field.