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Research Process: Narrowing the Topic

This tutorial aims to help develop effective library research skills and critical thinking skills in all courses at Prince George's Community College.

Narrowing the Topic

Determining the scope of your paper to fit the length is important. Like a detective who wants to narrow a lead of a crime and suspect, you begin with a broad topic and continue to refine the topic to a specific aspect of a topic. A topic such as terrorism is too broad for a short paper.

Defining Your Research Question

When you are looking for factual information, it is important to know how to phrase your topic sentence. You might want to consider phrasing your topic as a question to ensure that you will answer the basic question of who, what, when, where, why, and how.

An example of a question can be: 

  • What is the relationship between United States intelligence operations and counter terrorism?

Mapping the Topic

A helpful technique for narrowing a topic is to map out how you will refine your topic. Begin by putting terrorism at the top as your starting point and show your routes to subtopics.

narrowing the topic flow graph