Too big a topic? Too narrow a topic? How to get it just right:
- If you choose to research a topic that is too broad, or has too large of a scope, you will find too much information and find it hard to form an argument or answer a specific question.
- If you choose to research a topic that is too narrow/specific you won't be able to find enough information to answer your research question.
- Start by choosing a general research topic
- Do some background research to narrow the scope and pick a research question.
- A narrower topic will make it easier to search for sources later on, and to know what keywords, dates, locations, or disciplines of study are important for your research.
|Try this exercise to see if you can tell if a research question is too broad, too narrow or just right!
credit: SUNY Empire State College https://www.esc.edu
Tips to help narrow a topic:
You may find it easy to identify subtopics by looking at encyclopedia articles, textbooks, or other library sources. If you have trouble narrowing a topic, you can try using these strategies:
- Choose a specific aspect or sub-group to study
- Instead of studying all people, look at adolescents specifically
- Instead of studying all online communication, look at email specifically
- Instead of studying all cars, look at SUVs specifically
- Choose a specific place or a narrower location
- Instead of studying all of East Asia, look at China specifically
- Instead of studying alll of Canada, look at Ontario specifically
- Choose a specific time - a shorter length of time will be more specific
- Finding information about a specific time period can be difficult - do a test search to make sure this is useful for your topic
- Instead of studying all time, look at the most recent 20 years specifically
- Instead of studying the 20th century, look at the 1980s specifically
- Choose two perspectives or variables and compare them, or look for a relationship (such as a cause and effect)
- Compare your topic in a modern/contemporary setting and a historical setting
- Compare groups to individuals
- Compare men and women
- Compare two different locations
Need more help with your Research Question? Try these:
- How to write a research question : includes examples of clear and unclear questions
- Writing a good research question: also has examples
- Research question examples: a number of examples of how to turn bad research questions into better ones
- Developing a research question: brief video, explains how a topic relates to a research question
- Developing a research question: animated video with good examples