Unit 5: Conducting Independent Research

34 Choosing and Narrowing a Topic

Preview Questions:

  1. What should you keep in mind when choosing a topic?
  2. How can you determine if a topic is suitable for you?
  3. What are some problems you might encounter with topics? How can you know if a topic is feasible for research or not?
  4. How can you narrow a topic?

Choosing a Topic

When selecting a topic, ask yourself:

  • What am I interested in?
  • What have I read recently or heard in the news that’s interesting to me?
  • Is there anything in any of my classes that I can connect to the essay topic?
  • Is there anything that is affecting me personally right now that might connect to the essay topic?

Exploring potential topics

Two places to start exploring topics are these databases, accessible through the UW-Madison Libraries homepage. Select “databases” from the drop-down menu:

  1. Opposing Viewpoints
  2. CQ Researcher

An additional source to further explore the various sides to your topic  is Procon.org

Narrowing a Topic

Narrow your topic so that it can be discussed within the page limit of an assignment. Below are some examples of how topics can be narrowed.

General topic Focused topic Narrowed topic RQ
Children Children’s rights Child labor in developing countries, like X country Is it a good idea to make child labor in the clothing industry in X country illegal?
Organic food Labelling of organic foods labelling of organic foods in the United states What are the most important criteria the US Department of Agriculture should consider when labelling foods as organic?
Refugee crisis Immigrants coming to the United States Immigration policies for people from X country seeking asylum in the United States How will raising the quota for accepting people from X country to come to the United States impact the US economy?
Animal rights Genetic engineering of extinct animals Using genetic engineering to bring back extinct animals for research Should scientists be allowed to use genetic engineering to create extinct animals for research purposes?
Recycling Single-use plastics recycling X  country’s efforts to ban single-use plastics to reduce pollution Is X country’s ban on single-use plastic products effective in reducing pollution?

Watch the video on Developing a Research Question

From: Steely Library NIKU


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