60 Narrowing & Developing

Narrowing & Developing

Narrowing Your Topic / Asking the Right Questions

A road sign that shows the road narrowing on both sidesIt may seem easy to choose a topic for a research paper, but it can actually be difficult sometimes. In fact, determining a good, solid research question can be one of the hardest parts of writing a strong research paper.

Here are some guidelines to help you.

If you are able to choose your topic, find a topic that interests you. If your topic is assigned, try thinking about an aspect of that topic you find most interesting. You’ll be spending a great deal of time working on this paper. Make sure that it’s about something that you really are interested in learning to understand very well.

Keep in mind that your final topic and research question won’t simply come to you by thinking about it. You need to get out there and start digging—through books, through encyclopedias, and through internet sites. Pick a general topic that attracts you, and then roll up your sleeves and start reading. The narrowed topic and research question will only come to you as you wrestle with the material related to that topic.

Now, here’s one of the keys to doing a research paper for a college course. Don’t try to write the history of everything about your topic. Instead, find one small intriguing aspect of your topic and focus on that. A good research paper is not a big, general history or overview of everything that covers a great deal of information in a very superficial manner. It’s narrowed and focused and goes deep into a limited area of a topic.

By the time you are finished researching and writing, you have become something of an expert on that very narrow topic. Let’s take an example and walk you through the process.


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