Welcome back to our Beginning Research Series! To see the first part of this series, click here: Beginning Research Part I
Narrowing down a research topic can be a daunting task but, it’s often a necessary part of the writing process. If your topic is too broad, you risk trying to fit in too much information or not being able to adequately address every aspect of your topic. Your paper could sound scattered or unfocused. On the other hand, if your topic is too narrow, you might not have enough information to cover the scope of your assignment.
Some things to remember:
- Make sure that the topic is appropriate for your assignment. What kind of questions are you trying to answer? Who is your audience?
- Keep in mind the length of your paper. You can’t adequately cover the entire history of American aviation in five pages!
- Making an outline is an excellent way to organize your thoughts and narrow down a broad topic.
When you make an outline, you want to move from a general topic to increasingly more specific ones. The pyramid graphic below illustrates this concept well.
The OWL at Purdue also has some excellent resources on creating an outline here. Some key points on outlining from their guide:
- Brainstorm: List all the ideas that you want to include in your paper. This can include both general and specific topics. Just write down everything you’d like to talk about.
- Organize: Group related ideas together.
- Order: Arrange material in subsections from general to specific or from abstract to concrete.
- Label: Create main and sub headings.
After outlining, you should be able to tell whether or not your overall topic is too broad or too narrow. If your topic is too broad, focusing on one of the sub-topics in your outline is an excellent way to narrow down your topic for your paper. If you have questions, feel free to come in to the library!