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Handout #2 - Narrowing Down a Topic

By Donna Sanders,2014-09-11 15:04
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Handout #2 - Narrowing Down a Topic

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

EXAMPLE

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>.

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