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Faye Kachur Online W131 Class Guide: Home

This guide is to assist students enrolled in Professor Kachur's W131 Online Course.


This guide will assist students in finding resources for their paper on the future of the workplace. Topics on this subject can be very diverse. Students will have to conduct multiple searches to find the resources they need. If you are having difficulty finding resources for your paper, you can email the Librarian, or call the Reference Desk at 219-980-6582. 

Internet Sources to Find Ideas

Use all of the sources below to get ideas on how to focus your topic.

Strategies for Narrowing the Research Topic

The most common challenge when beginning to write a research paper is narrowing down your topic. Even if your professor gives you a specific topic to study, it will almost never be so specific that you won’t have to narrow it down at least to some degree [besides, grading fifty papers that are all on exactly the same thing is very boring!].

A topic is too broad to be managable when you find that you have too many different, and oftentimes conflicting and only remotely related, ideas about how to investigate the research problem. While you will want to start the writing process by considering a variety of different approaches to studying the problem, you will need to narrow the focus of your research at some point so don't attempt to do too much in one paper.

Here are some strategies to help focus your topic into something more manageable:

  • Aspect -- choose one lens through which to view the research problem, or look at just one facet of it [e.g., rather than studying the role of food in Eastern religious rituals; study the role of food in Hindu ceremonies, or, the role of one particular type of food among several religions].
  • Components -- determine if your initial variables or unit of analyses can be broken into smaller parts, which can then be analyzed more precisely [e.g., a study of tobacco use among adolescents can focus on just chewing tobacco rather than all forms of usage or, rather than adolescents in general, focus on female adolescents of a certain age who smoke].
  • Place -- the smaller the area of analysis, the more narrow the focus [e.g., rather than study trade relations in West Africa, study trade relations between Niger and Cameroon].
  • Relationship -- how do two or more different perspectives or variables relate to one another? [e.g., cause/effect, compare/contrast, contemporary/historical, group/individual, male/female, opinion/reason, problem/solution].
  • Time -- the shorter the time period, the more narrow the focus.
  • Type -- focus your topic in terms of a specific type or class of people, places, or things [e.g., a study of traffic patterns near schools can focus only on SUVs, or just student drivers, or just the timing of stoplights in the area].
  • Combination -- use two or more of the above strategies to focus your topic very narrowly.

NOTE: Apply one of the above first to determine if that gives you a manageable study; combining multiple strategies risks creating the opposite problem--your topic becomes too narrowly defined and you can't locate enough research or data to support your study.

University of Southern California

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Libré Booker
(219) 980-6547