Brainstorming Strategy: Narrowing a Topic

Brainstorming is the process by which ideas are produced using techniques like concept mapping, free-writing, etc. Choosing a topic can be a difficult process when starting an assignment or writing a paper, and brainstorming can be used to choose a topic or narrow down a more broad topic. Narrowing your topic is an important step in the research process. A broad, general topic makes it difficult to find specified research, so narrowing down the topic is needed.

WHAT ARE KEYWORDS?

Keywords are specific words or phrases that relate to your main idea or research question. They are used in brainstorming to determine search terms to use in finding research or narrowing down a topic. Keywords can be specific search words found in your research question, synonyms, phrases, or jargon that are common in the field of study.

HOW TO NARROW YOUR TOPIC

  1. Start by writing down your broad topic.

Example:

Use of social media and children

2. Next, identify the main ideas or terms.

  • social media
  • children

3. Using your list of ideas, try to describe Who, What, Where, When, How, and Why about your topic to determine specifics. Do any of these topics sound interesting? Would you be interested in researching them for your assignment? 

Example

 

Who

Juvenile, pre-adolescent, adolescent,  teenage

What

Twitter, Instagram, Facebook

Where

Online, in daily life, at school

When

Early life, childhood, puberty, young adulthood

How

Social, emotional, physical, behavioral

Why

Causes, effects

4. Once you have determined which words you’d like to use, combine aspects of your list to create a narrowed down topic.

Example

 

Who

Juvenile, pre-adolescent, adolescent, teenage

What

Twitter, Instagram, Facebook

Where

Online, in daily life, at school

When

Early life, childhood, puberty, young adulthood

How

Social, emotional, physical, behavioral

Why

Causes, effects

Narrow research question: What are the effects of using Instagram on the behavior of adolescents?

5. Now, use these keywords and phrases to start searching for sources using the Grand Valley State University Libraries online databases.

MEET WITH A CONSULTANT

Have other questions? Research consultants can help! We specialize in brainstorming topics, finding sources, reading scholarly materials, and evaluating research. 

Stop by the Knowledge Market during open hours or make an appointment to talk with a research consultant.

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