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How to develop a research topic
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Selecting And Narrowing Research Topics

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Selecting And Narrowing Research Topics

  1. 1. Selecting and Narrowing Research Topics Deanna Blevins RHET 201 American University in Cairo
  2. 2. Selecting a Topic <ul><li>Review assignment guidelines for requirements. </li></ul><ul><li>Not too broad or too narrow (depends on assignment length). </li></ul><ul><li>Relevant in the context (audience, time, situation, place, etc.) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Debatable, controversial, important </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Sources are available. </li></ul>
  3. 3. More considerations in choosing a topic <ul><li>Choose a topic you want to learn about. It should be interesting to you. </li></ul><ul><li>Remember that research should lead to DISCOVERY, not merely confirmation of what you already think or know. Keep an open mind and be objective. </li></ul>
  4. 4. Avoiding topics <ul><li>Commonly written about. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Too difficult to add your own insights </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Too easy to plagiarize </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Might bore audience </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Simplistic issues, easily answerable. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Won’t test your research or critical thinking skills. Leads to cliches. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Arguments that overly rely on religious or ethical perspectives. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Audience might not share your beliefs </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. Narrowing a Topic <ul><li>Use demographic categories to help: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Age </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Sex or gender </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ethnicity </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Nationality </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Race </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Class </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Religion </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Education </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Geographic factors: region/country, urban/rural </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Time periods </li></ul></ul>
  6. 6. Asking Questions to Narrow the Topic <ul><li>Questions based on rhetorical mode: </li></ul><ul><li>Comparison </li></ul><ul><li>Definition </li></ul><ul><li>Cause/Effect </li></ul><ul><li>Process </li></ul><ul><li>Classification </li></ul><ul><li>Evaluation </li></ul>
  7. 7. Asking Questions by Discipline <ul><li>Economics </li></ul><ul><li>History </li></ul><ul><li>Psychology </li></ul><ul><li>Sociology </li></ul><ul><li>Literature </li></ul><ul><li>Business </li></ul><ul><li>Science </li></ul>
  8. 8. Asking Journalists’ Questions <ul><li>Who? </li></ul><ul><li>What? </li></ul><ul><li>When? </li></ul><ul><li>Why? </li></ul><ul><li>Where? </li></ul><ul><li>How? </li></ul>
  9. 9. Example for narrowing a topic <ul><li>Topic: Education </li></ul><ul><li>Geographically—in Upper Egypt </li></ul><ul><li>Class—among Egypt’s upper class </li></ul><ul><li>Age—primary education </li></ul><ul><li>Sex/gender—primary education among upper Egyptian females </li></ul><ul><li>Religion—religious education in upper Egypt </li></ul><ul><li>Ethnicity—primary education for upper Egypt’s Nubian population </li></ul>
  10. 10. Finding an Issue <ul><li>An issue is an aspect of the topic that you can analyze and/or take a position on. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Examples: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Curriculum reform </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Private lessons </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Government role in education reform </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>NGO/foreign donor role in education reform </li></ul></ul></ul>
  11. 11. practice <ul><li>Topic: Internet </li></ul><ul><li>Focus: e-business in Egypt </li></ul><ul><li>Issue: ?? </li></ul>
  12. 12. practice <ul><li>Topic: film </li></ul><ul><li>Focus: Cairo International Film Festival </li></ul><ul><li>Issues: ?? </li></ul>
  13. 13. Moving to the next step <ul><li>Choose a reasonably narrowed topic. </li></ul><ul><li>Find a general article on your subject (a magazine or newspaper article, an introduction to a book, an encyclopedia entry). </li></ul><ul><li>Skim it to see if it interests you and brings up any issues. </li></ul><ul><li>Read carefully, making notes and underlining. </li></ul><ul><li>Identify issues within your topic </li></ul><ul><li>Write research questions that you want/need to know the answers to. </li></ul>
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