Handout #2 – Narrowing Down a Topic
Narrowing down a topic is important because having too broad a topic will result in a difficult-to-research and difficult-to-write essay. A topic that is too broad will result in an essay that is neither meaningful nor manageable.
There are two general ways to determine if you have a topic that is too broad.
1.) If you have too much research to do for the amount that you have to write.
For example, in this class, you will be writing essays that range from 2-5 pages. Having 10 books
or news articles to read in order to write the essay will be a bit excessive.
2.) If your topic can be summed up in a word or two, then it is probably too broad.
For example, smoking, (school) cheating, education, overweight teens, corporal punishment, the
Vietnam War, hip hop, television, etc.
Narrowing Down Your Topic
The process of narrowing down a topic includes asking yourself questions about the topic that you’ve chosen. These questions generally can be divided according to the question word used.
Geography = Where?
the economic development of Iowa > Iowa City’s economic development > the economic development of Iowa City’s downtown area
Demographic = Who?
Pepsi’s marketing strategy > Pepsi’s marketing strategy with people aged 18-24 > Pepsi’s marketing
strategy with university students
Time = When?
law and law enforcement > law and law enforement in the Modern Era > law and law enforcement in the early 1900s > law and law enforcement in Prohibition-Era America
Text or Theme = What?
thth 19 century poetry > American poetry from the 19 century > the poetry of Walt Whitman > Walt
Whitman’s Beat! Beat! Drums!
Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World > happiness in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World > the choice
between freedom and happiness in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World
Cause and Effect = Why? How?
the American economic crisis > the role of the housing market on the American economic crisis > deregulation in the housing market and its effects on the American economic crisis
Narrowing down based on more than one aspect is adviseable.
Time, Geography, and Theme = When? Where? What?
th law and law enforcement > law and law enforcement in the 19 century (when) > law and law ththenforcement in 19 century America (where) > the prosecution of violent crimes (what) in 19 century America
topic: hip hop
What about hip hop?
-hip hop as therapy
Where is hip hop used as therapy?
-hip hop as therapy in Japan
Who is hip hop used as therapy for in Japan?
-hip hop as therapy for teenaged criminals in Japan
When is hip hop used as therapy for teenaged criminals in Japan?
-hip hop as therapy for teenaged criminals in Japan in the last ten years
Handout information adapted from:
“Narrowing down the topic.” University of Ottawa Academic Writing Help Centre. University of Ottawa, n.d.
Web. 6 June 2012. <http://www.sass.uottawa.ca/writing/kit/stage2-narrowdown.pdf>.