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Brainstorming Topics and Search Terms

What makes a good research topic or question?

It may help to frame your research topic as a question. Having a research question can help you identify the points to include in your assignment which best answers the research question.  A good research question should be:

  • clear and narrow enough so that you can effectively write about it
  • open-ended, allowing you to discuss the topic and provide supporting information from your sources
  • researchable, which means that you can effectively search and find relevant sources which support your discussion of the topic

Try narrowing your topic by...

A specific person, group, or demographic

Narrow down by a specific person, group, or demographic. Examples include: marital status, gender, religion, country of origin or ancestry, race, age (children, young adults, middle aged, seniors), mother tongue, educational attainment, income, occupation, visible minority status, generational cohort (great depression, baby boomers, generation Y, millennials).

These images show examples of ways to narrow a topic. Can you think of any other examples for who to focus on?

A specific issue, event, theory or lens

Narrow by a specific issue, event, theory, or lens. For example: issues, theories, controversies, events, types of (mental health issues, educational, car manufacturers), disciples (health, science, business). You can also approach your topic by a specific lens, such as economic, social, psychological, medical, environmental, political, legal, technological, personal accounts, statistical, historical versus current.

These images show examples of ways to narrow a topic. Can you think of any other examples for what to focus on?

A specific location or type of environment

Narrow by a specific location or type of environment. For example: by geographic location (country, state or province, city, town) or by type of environment (rural versus urban, public versus private school, office spaces, indoors versus outdoors, developing countries).

These images show examples of ways to narrow a topic. Can you think of any other examples for where to focus on?

A specific timeframe (time period, era, milestone)

Narrow down by a specific time frame (time period, era, milestone). For example: 1990's, teenage years, retirement, most recent five years, industrial revolution, historical overview of...).

These images show examples of ways to narrow a topic. Can you think of any other examples for when to focus on?

Identifying why the topic is important 

Narrow your topic by identifying why the topic is important. Consider the causes or effects of the topic being explored.

These images show examples of ways to narrow a topic. Can you think of any other examples for why a topic is important?

In the next section of this tutorial (Give it a try! Narrowing the scope), complete the brainstorming worksheet to explore ways to narrow the scope of your research topic.
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