Refining Topics

Often the topic you find interesting can be too large to investigate for a single research paper. Try these simple focus strategies to narrow a broad topic to a manageable one.


Look at a single aspect of a topic:

  • Economics of genetically modified food crops
  • Psychological effects of crystal methamphetamine use
  • Treatments for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • The significance of food in a particular religion


Focus on a year or range of years:

  • GM crops developed since 2000
  • Crystal meth use between 1990-2000
  • PTSD in the year after Hurricane Katrina
  • Changes in food production from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age


Focus on a particular region or area:

  • GM food crops in Hawaiʻi
  • Crystal methuse in the Pacific Northwest
  • PTSD in New Orleans
  • Foods of Papau New Guinea


Examine a specific class of people, type of thing, etc.:

  • Genetically modified papayas
  • Female crystal meth users
  • Chronic PTSD
  • Taboo foods


How two or more topics relate to one another, using Cause and Effect, Correlation, Compare and Contrast:

  • Consumer package labeling of GM foods
  • Crystal meth use and unemployment
  • PTSD and cigarette smoking
  • Food and gender

Combining two or more of these narrowing strategies

  • Economic analysis of GM papaya vs. non-GM papaya crops grown in Hawaiʻi from 1995-2005 - uses Compare and Contrast, Location, Time
  • Psychological problems associated with crystal meth abuse in early adolescent girls - uses Aspect and Type
  • Treatment of chronic PTSD in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina - uses Aspect, Location, Time
  • Gender-specific food taboos in Papua New Guinea - uses Type, Location