Narrowing Down The Topic

In narrowing down your topic, you should consider the following ideas:

  1. Identify and define the main elements of the topic that you have chosen and look at the different ways that they can be applied to the primary material of your essay.
  2. Pay attention to the length that the professor has assigned for the essay. The length can dictate the amount of information that you will be able to fit into your paper. The length will also dictate the number of body parts that you will be able to use to support your thesis. As a general rule, the shorter the essay, the more limited and precise the topic will be. The longer the essay, the more space you will have to explore your topic and its implications and complexity.
  3. In narrowing down your topic, pay attention to the specific aspects of the topic that are addressed within the primary text(s) for your essay and within class discussion. This will give you an indication of the specific ways that you can write about your source material. Professors are usually looking for a specific topic that addresses one of the central ideas of the material that you are studying. Choose the specific aspect that you feel runs through as much of the text as possible. This will afford you a topic that can be developed through the course of the primary source(s) to present your reading audience with a clearer view of the text or the ideas that dominate the material.
  4. If you have any doubts about how you can find a specific aspect to address within the assigned topics, or if you are unsure as to which aspect you should focus on, do not hesitate to contact your professor for guidance. Often, this can save you a great deal of wasted effort and can help to focus your attention on a specific avenue for researching your topic.
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