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one tool for narrowing your topic is to

one tool for narrowing your topic is to

one tool for naorrwing your topic is to

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one tool for narrowing your topic is to

Narrowing a Topic

When you have an overall subject to pursue, your next task is to Narrow and focus the topic. You want to narrow your topic so that you can explore it in detail. Also, narrowing your topic will enable you to better determine the specific direction of your paper and the research you will conduct on your topic.

You can focus your topic by using the following strategy:

Generate a list of more specific areas of interest (subtopics) related to your overall topic
For example:

Subtopics related to education:

Online education
Traditional education model
Common Core
STEM education

Subtopics related to crime:

Juvenile crime
Criminal justice system
Racial profiling
Prison reform

Narrowing topic is crucial as it not only specifies the area of research as a too wide topic could be unmanageable and may evoke conflicting opinions in the minds of the readers. There are different tools to specify(narrow) the topic as per your interest and resources like a Venn diagram or the formation of rhetorical questions, etc. As per the question, one tool to narrow the topic could be ‘listing adjectives’ as it would aid to convert a general topic into a precise and specific topic for the research. Thus, the researcher could pay his/her attention to that specific topic and present it more effectively.

Sometimes a topic that seems like the right size for your paper can seem way too big after you’ve learned a little more about it. When this happens, you need to narrow the focus of your paper. You can do this by considering different ways to restrict your paper topic.

Some of the ways you can limit your paper topic are by:

Who – population or group (e.g., college students; women; Asian Americans)
What – discipline or focus (e.g., sociological or historical perspective)
Where – geographic location (e.g., United States; universities; small towns)
When – time period or era (19th century; Renaissance; Vietnam War)
Why – why is the topic important? (to the class, to the field, or to you)
For example, a paper about alcohol use would be very broad. But a paper about reasons for alcohol abuse by female college students in the United States during the 1990s might be just right.



Keywords are specific words or phrases that relate to your main idea or research question. They are used in brainstorming to determine search terms to use in finding research or narrowing down a topic. Keywords can be specific search words found in your research question, synonyms, phrases, or jargon that are common in the field of study.

Process of Narrowing a Topic

All Possible Topics – You’ll need to narrow your topic in order to do research effectively. Without specific areas of focus, it will be hard to even know where to begin.

Assigned Topics – Ideas about a narrower topic can come from anywhere. Often, a narrower topic boils down to deciding what’s interesting to you. One way to get ideas is to read background information in a source like Wikipedia.

Topic Narrowed by Initial Exploration – It’s wise to do some more reading about that narrower topic to a) learn more about it and b) learn specialized terms used by professionals and scholars who study it.

Topic Narrowed to Research Question(s) – A research question defines exactly what you are trying to find out. It will influence most of the steps you take to conduct the research.

Why Narrow a Topic?

Once you have a need for research—say, an assignment—you may need to prowl around a bit online to explore the topic and figure out what you actually want to find out and write about.

For instance, maybe your assignment is to develop a poster about “spring” for an introductory horticulture course. The instructor expects you to narrow that topic to something you are interested in and that is related to your class.


Ideas about a narrower topic

Ideas about a narrower topic can come from anywhere. In this case, a narrower topic boils down to deciding what’s interesting to you about “spring” that is related to what you’re learning in your horticulture class and small enough to manage in the time you have.

One way to get ideas would be to read about spring in Wikipedia, looking for things that seem interesting and relevant to your class, and then letting one thing lead to another as you keep reading and thinking about likely possibilities that are more narrow than the enormous “spring” topic. (Be sure to pay attention to the references at the bottom of most Wikipedia pages and pursue any that look interesting. Your instructor is not likely to let you cite Wikipedia, but those references may be citable scholarly sources that you could eventually decide to use.)

Or, instead, if it is spring at the time you could start by just looking around, admire the blooming trees on campus, and decide you’d like your poster to be about bud development on your favorites, the crabapple trees.

To narrow your search

To narrow your search, you’ll need to “zoom in” on your topic. Just as placing an object under a microscope reveals detail that’s not visible to the naked eye…narrowing your topic will help you identify more specific concepts and keywords. Your search results will be more focused.

Just as you did when you chose your keywords, identify each of the major concepts in your topic.
For each concept, make a list of specific examples or types.
It may help to first consult a thesaurus, or do a test search to find synonyms (other ways to describe your concepts) and examples.
If you can’t find a more specific example of one of your concepts…don’t worry. Just get as narrow as you can.
Search for those more specific concepts, zooming in even further if needed!

Let’s try an example.

Suppose our topic is: How does class interaction help online students succeed?

We tried searching for interaction AND online students AND success, but most of the articles we found only mentioned interaction briefly, and some weren’t really relevant at all. We need more detail to write a paper about this topic. So, we’ll add more detail to our search!

A  strategy to narrow your speech topic

A  strategy to narrow your speech topic is to explore your broad topic with initial research, which can take different forms. Using the topic of yoga, your research might include a conversation with your yoga instructor to find out what aspects of the practice might be most interesting and relevant for your audience.

If you use social media, you might poll your friends and family about what aspects of your topic they are most curious about. A face-to face discussion with classmates, co-workers, friends, and family members about your topic is also a great option! Finally, use Internet search engines to read some articles and discover more about your topic. Since your audience for this class will be college students, adding the phrase “for college students” to your search query can be helpful for some topics. For instance, you might search “benefits of yoga for college students.” Initial research will help you identify more focused variations of your broad topic.

Clustering, Inverted Pyramid, and Initial Research are strategies that will help you take a broad topic and narrow it so it is manageable, is interesting, and allows you to go in-depth in your research and what you ultimately present to your audience.



1.Start by writing down your broad topic.

2. Next, identify the main ideas or terms.

3. Using your list of ideas, try to describe Who, What, Where, When, How, and Why about your topic to determine specifics. Do any of these topics sound interesting? Would you be interested in researching them for your assignment?

4. Once you have determined which words you’d like to use, combine aspects of your list to create a narrowed down topic.

5. Now, use these keywords and phrases to start searching for sources using the Grand Valley State University Libraries online databases.


A topic is too narrow if you can’t find any information about it. Though student writers most often face the challenge of limiting a topic that is too broad,

they occasionally have to recognize that they have chosen a topic that is too narrow or that they have narrowed a workable topic too much. If your topic is so narrowed and focused,

it can become too academic or pedantic. If your topic is too narrow, try making it broader by asking yourself related questions.

Your topic is too specific. Generalize what you are looking for. Example:

if your topic is genetic diversity for a specific ethnic group in Ghana, Africa, broaden your topic by generalizing to all ethnic groups in Ghana or in West Africa.
Your topic is too new for anything substantive to have been written. If you’re researching a recently breaking news event, you are likely to only find information about it in the news media.

Be sure to search databases that contain articles from newspapers. If you are not finding enough in the news media, consider changing your topic to one that has been covered more extensively.

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