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How To Do Research

Research Topics

Video Thumbnail: Framing a Problem
Video: Framing a Problem

Identifying a manageable topic is a crucial step in the research process. You may need to modify the scope, direction, or argument of your topic as you progress through the research process. 

Topic Selection Checklist

  • Manageable: Will you get overwhelmed trying to cover it all?
  • Researchable: Will you find enough credible sources?
  • Interesting: Will your reader want to read it?
  • Complex: Will the research questions offer more than "yes" and "no" answers?

Your topic might be too broad if:


  • You get overwhelmed by the number of sources that seem to be relevant for the topic.
  • There are concepts or events that don't fit into your outline.
  • There is too much to write about before you even get to your argument.

How to narrow a topic that is too broad:

  • Identify a specific part of the population that is effected (children, women, the elderly, people in rural states).
  • Examine one specific solution to a problem as a way to present a larger issue.
  • Don't include as much historical background or information leading up to your main issue or argument.


If you can find entire books about your topic, chances are it's too much to cover in one paper. Look through the table of contents of books on your topic for ideas about breaking it down into smaller categories and sub-topics.

narrowYour paper might be too narrow if:

  • It can be discussed in great detail in less than the required size of your assignment.
  • You found only 3 or 4 sources relevant to your topic.

How to broaden a topic that is too narrow:

  • Consider related subjects and see if you can widen your parameters to include more aspects.
  • Expand your topic geographically or demographically. For example, instead of focusing on Vermont, try New England. Instead of girls ages 1-3, try toddlers.
  • Choose less specific terms for your search.
  • Widen your focus to look at a bigger topic. For example, instead of Burnout of male nurses in Chicago aged 30 to 40.  Switch the topic to Burnout of nurses in American hospitals.


A topic that is very current may be difficult to research - you can write about very recent events as a topic as long as you bring in the history of the issue to put recent events in context.