Narrow Your Topic a Final Time

The interactive slideshow below shows how to narrow a topic by adding concepts to it.  The basic steps are:

  1. Start with your topic. Create a simple mind map and brainstorm a few different concepts you could add to it.
  2. Choose one of those concepts and cross out the rest. Rephrase your topic to include the additional concept. This is your narrower topic.
  3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 until your topic is sufficiently narrow that you can address it completely in your project.

Click through the slideshow to learn how to “grow and prune” a research topic until it is detailed and specific enough to meet your needs. To enlarge the view, click the menu icon in the lower left corner of the box and select “view full screen.”

text version is available here.

Research Question

Why a question?

  • It helps you stay on track. If a piece of information doesn’t help answer your question, you can leave it out.
  • It provides a logical order in which you can present the information.

If the narrowed topic is “the attachment theory of child development and its relationship to the academic outcomes of children raised in orphanages,” an appropriate research question might be, “How do the academic outcomes of children raised in orphanages that follow attachment theory principles compare to those who were not, and why?”

Thesis statements

A thesis statement is a research question turned around for the purpose of introducing your research argument.  For example:

  • Research question: How do the academic outcomes of children raised in orphanages that follow attachment theory principles compare to those who were not, and why?
  • Thesis statement: Children raised in orphanages that followed the principles of attachment theory had different academic outcomes by X, Y and Z measures because of A, B and C factors…

After you write your thesis statement, you sum up the answer for your readers, explain how you arrived at your answer, back it up with evidence, deal with anticipated challenges to your research and share your own insights.