Refining your topic
After you've brainstormed to get a topic, you now must refine your idea. If your topic involves a lot of research, make sure you're interested in the subject before investing too much energy. (If you haven't brainstormed or want to think further about a topic, return to Getting Started).
Okay, you're doing well if you've made it this far. You're ready to narrow your topic. First, pull out a piece of paper and write down your idea. For example, let's say you want to write about "exploration." That's a beginning. But "exploration" is too broad a topic. Write down three subtopics that are exploration related.
For example, you could write down:
However, these subtopics are still too broad. You'd never be able to thoroughly cover all issues related to early navigators and exploration to make a concise, informative paper. Narrow down the subtopics further.
For early navigators, you could narrow it down to a specific explorer. Then, you could break down the topic further to talk about a significant accomplishment or the historical influence of that explorer for a certain situation.
For space, you could write about a specific astronaut, such as Alan Shepard, and concentrate on the impact of one of his many famous missions.
For pioneers, you could focus on a particular person like scientist Robert Goddard and his ground-breaking research into building the first rocket.
The narrowing down of your topic should look something like this:
Once you've narrowed down the topic as far as you can to a subject that interests you, you should start doing some research and write a thesis.
In the above example for instance, here are possible sentences you may have written.
Thesis one: Vasco da Gama's travels and accomplishments for Portugal strengthened an already powerful sea-faring country.
Thesis two: Alan Shepard's 15-minute space journey on Freedom 7 launched America's space program in 1961 and grabbed the attention of all Americans, but today's space program doesn't have the enthusiasm or public support it had in the early days of exploration.
Make sure your thesis is able to answer these questions:
Is this an issue of current concern, or directly relate to the assignment?
Do I have enough time to research this subject if it's unfamiliar?
Is the topic too personal? (Some of the best writing comes from experience, but be willing to share with readers.)
If you need additional practice with brainstorming and refining a topic, on a separate sheet of paper, brainstorm topics 1-5 listed below. Once you're finished brainstorming, create two thesis statements for each topic. Then, explore each link to see what we've done.
Obviously, you won't have the same subtopics, but examine how our ideas led us to form a thesis and compare it to how you explored the topic. Then, if you're doing this as part of a class activity, write a paragraph or two that explains how you were able to form a thesis and what was going through your mind as you brainstormed. Focus on the process of how you went about generating a thesis from the brainstormed ideas.
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last updated on 11/25/99