First, you will want to understand the difference between a subject and a topic. A subject is broad and general, such as Education or Sports or Film -- too big to be the focus of your research paper. You need to look within the broad subject area to find your topic. A topic is more focused, more precise; it is a narrower subset of a subject. For example:
Here are some tips to help you develop a manageable and interesting topic:
This video (4:18 minutes) is really helpful in explaining similar steps to create a good research question:
As previously stated, background research on a subject will help you gain a better understanding of the topic. Background research can also help see how your idea relates to broader, narrower, and related issues and help you decide what way to focus on a subject area. For example, you might be interested in the subject of social media. If you look social media up in an encyclopedia it might talk about issues related to it such as privacy or bullying. You then might decide to focus on the topic of social media and privacy.
Some places to find background information:
Try any of the library databases below to explore your topic. Once you have enough background information you can begin refining your topic. If you're having trouble finding information on your topic, ask a librarian or your instructor for help.
Be prepared to be flexible! It is common to modify your topic during the research process. You may find too much information and need to narrow your focus, or too little information and need to broaden your focus. This is a normal part of the research process. When researching, you may not wish to change your topic completely, but instead decide that some other aspect of the topic is more interesting or manageable.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself to help you narrow your topic:
If you get too few hits, you may need to broaden your focus. You can broaden your topic by choosing a less specific time period, population, geographic area, or discipline - or by eliminating that limit altogether. You can also broaden a topic by choosing a more general term - e.g., Social Media rather than Facebook or Indigenous Peoples rather than Navajo.
View this video (3:15 minutes) for an overview of focusing your topic: