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Topic Development

Picking Your Topic and Topic Scope

After reading your research assignment and considering which topics might fit best, it's time to start investigating these possible topics.

One of the biggest research pitfalls is to just pick any topic that fits the parameters of the assignment and stick with it, regardless of what you find out about it during your preliminary research.

Picking Your Topic is Research

During topic development, you need to do preliminary research on your topic and consider the scope of your topic.

This video will help you think through the process of picking your topic. Often we need to learn about our topics to scope them properly for the size of our assignments. It's normal to spend time learning and changing your mind about the scope of your topic.


Picking Your Topic is Research (NC State Libraries)
Transcript: Picking your topic is research.pdf 

In this video, you saw that by broadening and narrowing the scope of a potential topic, Jennie was able to select a topic that fit her assignment needs.

While her first idea (Bridezillas) did not work for the scope of her assignment, Jennie did not throw the whole idea away. Instead, she broadened her topic (reality TV in general), and then ultimately fine-tuned this broader topic to choose reality TV shows about weddings and brides.

Often our first idea might not be quite right, but that does not mean that the whole idea is unworkable. Learn about your topic and try narrowing and broadening your search to find a scope that meets the needs of your assignment. 

Interviewing Your Topic

Interviewing Your Topic 

After watching the video Picking Your Topic IS ResearchLinks to an external site., you know that when you have a topic idea you have to test it out to see if it works for your assignment. The activities below will help you learn more about your topic and what scope is right for your assignment. 


It's hard to know if a topic fits the scope of your assignment without any investigating. These steps can help you think about the scope of your topic:

  • List your research topic idea.
  • List Broader ideas your topic falls into
  • List Narrower aspects of your topic

Example: If Halloween costumes is your topic idea, then costumes in general is a broader concept, while superhero costumes is a narrower aspect of your topic.

Who, What, When, Where, Why Questions  

These questions often help you figure out more about the different aspects or details of the topic.  

  • Who is impacted?
    • Who is involved? Who cares about the topic? 
  • What is involved?
    • What is being said? What happened? What are the main issues? 
  • When is this happening?
    • Is it something that repeats? Is it always happening? Are there other related events?
  • Where is this happening?
    • Geographically? Culturally? Physically or Digitally? 
  • Why are you interested?
    • Why is this an issue? Why does this topic matter? 

Answer as many of these questions for a topic you are considering as you can. Feel free to look up more about your topic as you work through them. Not all questions will apply to every topic.

Right now we are pre-searching and exploring, which means that everyday life information sources like news articles or Wikipedia are just fine. Refining our information sources and select them for the audience of our assignment will come later.