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WGSS 490: Bodies and Materialities: Hints for Narrowing Your Topic

Narrowing Your Topic

Start by phrasing your subject or general topic in the form of a question.

Then ask yourself further questions about your topic:

-What do you know about it? What don't you know?

-What interests you about a potential topic?  Are you enthusiastic about it?

-Think back on previous classes, discussions, programs, readings, etc.  Is there an issue or topic from those experiences that can influence your topic choice?

-What aspects or viewpoints of your topic interest you? Examples include social, legal, medical, ethical, biological, psychological, economic, political, and philosophical. A viewpoint allows you to focus on a single aspect.

-What time period do you want to cover?

-What place or geographic region do you want to cover? Examples include national, international, local social norms & values, economic & political systems, or languages.

-What population do you want to cover? Examples include gender, age, occupation, ethnicity, nationality, educational attainment, species, etc.

-Next, look for resources which provide background information. Some selected general and specialized subject sources can help narrow the topic.

Remember, there are two layers of research:
1) a broad search to discover resources and to read some background information
2) specific searches for information once you've focused your topic.

Your topic should be interesting, debatable, specific and manageable.
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You may also want to consult ideas on the University of Richmond's Writer's Web.

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Lucretia McCulley

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