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Selecting And Narrowing Research Topics

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

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