Discussion: Narrowing the Research Topic

This discussion will help you practice narrowing a topic, a skill you will need in the research process.

STEP 1: Imagine that you have been assigned a research paper on technology. As you know, this topic is far too broad for a successful research paper. It needs to be narrowed so that you can go deep on a specific topic. Ask yourself the question, “What aspects of technology am I interested in?” and make a list of at least five topics.

STEP 2: Choose one of your listed topics (ideally the one you find most interesting), and perform some preliminary research (Wikipedia, Google search, etc.). List at least three of the ideas that arise from this research. For example, if your initial topic was “technology’s impact on health,” you might find articles linking social media usage to anxiety and depression, articles discussing how 3D printing can create affordable prosthetics, and articles on eye problems caused by excessive screen time.

STEP 3: Choose one of these areas and narrow your topic again. For example, if you chose the link between social media and anxiety/depression, you might want to research this phenomenon in teenagers, or you might narrow “social media” to more specific platforms like Instagram or Snapchat. Once you think you have a sufficiently narrow and focused idea, write it out in a question format. For example: What is the relationship between depression/anxiety in teenagers and their use of social media platforms like Instagram and Snapchat?

STEP 4: Explain and discuss your steps in a discussion post, providing information about how you narrowed your topic and including your finalized research question.

STEP 5: Respond in two separate posts to two classmates (in at least 75 words). Write about how you might take another approach to the same topic. Explicitly address their examples and try to extend, complicate, or redirect their points in a substantive, knowledge-demonstrating way.