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Develop Research Topics

Use this guide to explore and develop research topics.

Is your topic too big?

Oftentimes, students choose topics that are too broad because they believe they have plenty of space to cover everything in a 5-10 page paper (or however long your paper is). However, in order to make a thorough, in-depth argument, you often need to choose a topic that is narrower than you think. Here are some examples:

  • Instead of How are women represented in movies? Try How is female sexuality represented in horror movies?
  • Instead of Is technology negatively affecting high school students? Try Is the ubiquity of smartphones making it difficult for high school students to concentrate in the classroom?
  • Instead of Have political campaigns become more negative? Try How has the 24 hour news cycle contributed to negative rhetoric in recent presidential campaigns?

The following video explains how you can narrow the focus of your topic by asking: who, what, when, where, why, which, and how?

Is your topic too small?

Sometimes when a student is very passionate about a topic, they want to research a specific aspect of that topic. But be aware: a too-narrow topic might make it difficult to find the necessary resources to fully flesh out your argument. If you feel that your topic is too specific, consider pulling back and looking at the bigger picture.

  • Instead of How does the television show Rick and Morty explore dysfunctional father-son relationships? Try How are father-son relationships represented in animated television shows from the past two decades?
  • Instead of Is Snapchat contributing to low self-esteem among 13-15 year old girls? Try How do visually-charged social media platforms affect the self-esteem of teenage girls?
  • Instead of Why does Skee-Ball continue to be a popular game in arcades? Try What is the relationship between nostalgia and arcade culture? 

The following video explains how you can modify or broaden your topic by examining alternate timelines, locations, or finding related topics:

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