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How to Write a Research Paper

Is your topic too narrow?

If you are not finding enough information, your topic may be too narrow. Consider broadening it by:

  • Exploring related issues
  • Comparing or contrasting the topic with another topic
  • Choosing an alternative topic that is not so recent -- it may not be covered in books and journal articles yet
  • Considering the time period covered
  • Broadening the population considered
  • Expanding the geographic area discussed
  • Choosing an alternative topic that is not so popular -- it may be covered in popular magazines and tabloids only

Is your topic too broad?

Narrowing a topic requires you to be more specific about your research interest and can help you to develop a thesis.

Questions to narrow your topic

  • Who? Who is the specific person/group to which you would like to limit your research?
  • What? What specific aspect of the broad topic idea is interesting to you?
  • Where? To which specific geographic area or region would you like to limit your research?
  • When? On what time period would you like your research focused?
  • Why? Why do you think this is an important/interesting topic?

What is a Thesis Statement?

A thesis is typically a one sentence statement in the first paragraph, or beginning, of your project that states your purpose. Thesis statements should be arguable, specific, detailed, and meaningful.

Examples:

Broad Topic: Global warming

Narrower Topic: How will climate change impact sea levels and the coastal United States?

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Narrow Topic: Does cartoon viewing cause violent behaviors in children under the age of five?

Broader Topic:  What are the negative effects of television viewing on children and adolescents?