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ESL 25 (Brickman) - Science Research Assignment: Refining Topics

Narrow Your Topic

When narrowing a topic, consider these questions:

  1. Can you focus your project on a specific aspect of the topic?
  2. Can you narrow your topic to a specific time period?
  3. Can you narrow your topic to a specific event?
  4. Can you narrow your topic to a specific geographic area?
  5. Can you narrow your topic to a specific problem or question?

Sample Topic Narrowing Chart:

General topic:

climate change

 1. Specific aspect:

weather, hurricanes

 2. Specific time period:

2000-present

 3. Specific event:

Hurricane Katrina (2005), Hurricane Sandy (2012)

 4. Specific geographic area:

United States

 5. Specific problem/question:

???

Possible search terms: "climate change" "extreme weather" "hurricane katrina" "hurricane sandy" "carbon pollution"

 

Keyword Searching to Narrow or Broaden Your Topic

Watch this video to learn how you can narrow or broaden your search by using the right keywords.

Courtesy of Holman Library, Green River Community College, Auburn, WA

Broaden Your Topic

When broadening a topic, consider these questions:

1. Can you broaden your topic to include related subjects?

Example: Instead of e-coli cases related to spinach, choose food safety.

Possible research question: What conditions must be changed in our farms to ensure less contamination in our food system? 

2. Can you broaden your topic chronologically?

  • Example: Instead of social changes in the 1960s, choose the second half of the 20th century. 

Possible research question: What were the events that led to societal changes in the U.S. in the second half of the 20th century? 

3. Can you broaden your topic geographically?

Example: Instead of drought conditions in California, choose the Western states.

Possible research question: What are the reasons for the prolonged periods of drought in the Western U.S.?

4. Can you identify a larger problem or issue?

Example: Instead of "Golden Rice," choose genetically modified foods.

Possible research question: Should genetically modified foods be developed further or banned entirely?

Research Questions and Thesis Statements

►A research question is an open-ended beginning to your investigation. It is something you are truly curious about.

Example: In what ways might Hurricane Katrina be an example of extreme weather caused by climate change?

►A thesis is your position or argument that points to the direction of your investigation. 

Example: Hurricane Katrina is an example of extreme weather caused by climate change.