When someone starts a research assignment, a typical mistake is to think too broadly about it. This is usually born out of having an interest in a subject but a limited understanding of everything that subject could encompass. For instance, if you wanted to write a paper about hip-hop music, you might do a search for that term in the databases and find yourself overwhelmed by all the information. If you tried to write about all of the information such a broad search would turn up, you would soon find yourself with a book-length manuscript. Since your assignments are likely to be measured in pages instead of chapters, you will want to narrow your topic down as much as possible. Here are some methods for narrowing your topic:
One approach is to ask questions about your topic to narrow it down: Think, “Who, what, when, where, and how?”
Question: What aspect of hip-hop do I want to talk about?
Possible Answers: Hip-hop and activism? Hip-hop and therapy? Hip-hop and conflict resolution?
Question: Who do I want to talk about?
Possible Answers: Teenagers? Adults? Students?
Question: Where do I want to talk about?
Possible Answers: Workplace? High school?
Possible Narrowed Topic:
How can high schools use hip-hop conflict resolution to increase student safety?
Bring Yourself into the Paper
Another approach is to take an assigned topic and then try to find out how something you are personally interested in relates to that topic.
Assigned Topic: Climate Science
How can businesses benefit by going green?
How does meat consumption impact climate and ecology?
How could concert venues become more ecologically friendly?
How could climate change contribute to social unrest in the Sudan?