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Define, Refine and Develop Your Topic: Refine

This guide will help you identify and focus your research topic.
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Last Updated: Sep 8, 2021 10:26 AM

Refining or Narrowing Your Topic

Once you have chosen a general topic idea, the next step is to refine and focus your topic.  This process should help you formulate your research question.

A topic that is too broad or vague can be refined by focusing on some specific aspects of the topic.
View RIT Libraries’ LIV@RIT, Module Two:  Choosing Topics:  http://library.rit.edu/liv/2

Example: History of the automobile in the United States

This topic, as stated, is much too broad you could right an entire book on this! The topic can be limited in a number of ways, such as focusing on a specific:

  • Time period
  • Development of the automobile in the U.S. during the Roaring Twenties
  • Geographic area
  • Introduction of the auto into large urban areas.
  • Specific group
  • The effect of the United Auto Workers union on the General Motors Corp.
  • Specific individual
  • The influence of Henry Ford and the use of the assembly line in auto production.
  • Specific event
  • The effect of the federal Interstate Highway System on auto travel.

The graphic below illustrates the process of moving from a broad and very general topic to a more focused and refined topic.

What is a Research Question?

A research question is the fundamental core of a research project, study, or review of literature. It focuses the study, determines the methodology, and guides all stages of inquiry, analysis, and reporting.

                                                                                     -https://researchrundowns.com/intro/writing-research-questions/ 

Once you have defined the topic you would like to research, the next step in the process is formulating your research question. The research question should be focused and specific. A good research question should involve research and not something that can be simply answered by consulting an encyclopedia or a quick Google search. A strong research question will likely contain more than one possible answer or theory. 

 

Referring to the inverted pyramid diagram above, the research question could become: How did Henry Ford and his use of the assembly line influence future auto production?

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