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Selecting a Topic



If you find that your topic is too broad for the confines of your assignment consider these questions:

What?: Are there different aspects or sides to the topic? Are there multiple viewpoints? Why is it an important question?

Who?: Which groups are affected by the topic area in question? Who is involved in the discussion? Is culture an aspect?

When?: Is this topic a contemporary concern, a question that affects people today? Is it a topic that can be explored across time period? Is it a historical concern?

Where?: Is the topic confined to a specific geographic location? Does it affect one area more than another, or is it universal?

If you find that your topic is too narrow for the confines of your assignment consider these questions:

Currency: Is your topic too current? Can you expand or shift the time period?

Related Issues: Are there related issues that would improve your argument? Do the variables or concepts you are considering impact other people, places or attitudes?

Generalize:  If you are looking at a particular group, individual or place, can you bring others into your research? Can you expand your area? Are there similar groups you can include?

For background sources, refer to the subject guide for your discipline:

Developing a Research Question

Formulate questions that narrow your topic, reducing what might be your original grand question, to manageable portions. Your research question should be narrow, specific, and answerable. Eventually, your question should be refined based on a review of the literature in your discipline.

You may find it helpful to express or ask your question as a relation between two or more variables.

Note that a hypothesis is a tentative answer to a research question - an expected but as of yet unconfirmed relationship between two or more variables.

Singleton, R. A. and Straits, B. C. (2005). Approaches to social research. New York: Oxford University Press.