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The Importance of Broadening a Research Topic

It is important to adopt a flexible approach when choosing a topic to investigate. The goal when writing any research paper is to choose a research problem that is focused and time-limited. However, your starting point should not be so narrowly defined that you unnecessarily constrict your opportunity to investigate the topic thoroughly. A research problem that is too narrowly defined leads to any of the following problems:

  • You don't find enough information and what you do find is tangential or irrelevant.
  • You find information that is so specific that it can't lead to any significant conclusions.
  • Your sources cover so few ideas that you can't expand them into a significant paper.
  • The research problem is so case specific that it limits opportunities to generalize or apply the results to other contexts.
  • The significance of the research problem is limited to only a very small, unique population.

Tips to Broaden a Research Topic

In general, an indication that a research problem is too narrowly defined is that you can't find any relevant or meaningful information about it. If this happens, don't immediately abandon your efforts to investigate the problem because it could very well be an excellent topic of study. A good way to begin is to look for parallels and opportunities for broader associations or less specific terms that apply to the initial research problem.  A strategy for doing this is to ask yourself the basic six questions of who, what, where, when, how, and why.

  • Who- Could the population or group grow?
  • What- Could the disciple or focus be expanded?
  • Where- Could the geographic area be larger?
  • When- Could the time period be broadened?
  • How- Could the methods be more encompassing?
  • Why- Could the greater significance of your research be expanded?