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MCOM 600: Research Methods Seminar

Choosing a Topic and Formulating a Research Question

A topic that is manageable for a research project will not be too broad or too narrow. Often, the topic can be formulated into a research question. Manageable topics generally have two to three concepts. Examples of manageable topics/research questions include:

  • Do children sent to daycare or preschool start kindergarten with more highly developed language skills?
  • What impact has deregulation had on commercial airline safety?

Topics with one concept are generally too broad.

  • global warming
  • body image
  • food safety

When a topic idea is too broad, common ways to break down an idea include: place, time period, gender, age group, or ethnic group.

Topics with more that three concepts are usually too narrow.

  • What are the 14 different disease-causing genes that were discovered in 2000?
  • Are genetically altered soybeans grown in Iowa safe for human or animal use?

Using less specificity will be necessary when a topic idea is too narrow. 

Check out the Picking Your Topic is Research video on this page for more specifics on selecting a manageable topic and formulating a research question.

"Choosing a Topic" information was based on the information in following websites. Suny Empire State College, DePaul University Library, and Walden University.

Picking Your Topic is Research

This video is published under a Creative Commons 3.0 BY-NC-SA US license. License, credits, and contact information can be found here: http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/tutorials/pic...

Sources for Selecting a Topic

CQResearcher - University Library database that explores a single hot issue in the news in depth each week. Covers topics in health, social trends, criminal justice, international affairs, education, the environment, technology and the economy.

New York Times Room for Debate -  a website, created by New York Times editorial staff, that explores close to 1,500 news events and other timely issues. Knowledgeable outside contributors provide subject background and readers may contribute their own views.

Opposing ViewPoints In Context - University Library database that covers today’s "hottest" social issues. Features viewpoint articles, topic overviews, full-text magazine, academic journal and newspaper articles, primary source documents, statistics, images and podcasts, and links to Websites. Updated daily.

ProCon.Org - a website that offers facts, news, and thousands of diverse opinions on controversial issues in a pro-con format.

U.S. News & World Report: Debate Club - a website that provides pro/con arguments on current issues.