Broadening a topic means expanding based on the available subject matter. The first clue that a researcher may need to broaden his or her topic is linked to the length of the research paper. If the topic is too narrow, finding sufficient information to fill more than ten pages may be difficult. The first step in determining the availability of evidence involves using the library system to determine whether the chosen topic can be explored in the context of obtainable studies and information that already exists. The amount of resource material is an important indicator because the inability to find sufficient literature will point to the need for broadening the research topic. A fifteen-page research paper may require consulting or citing several dozen sources. If these cannot be located, then the chosen topic should be broadened.
Issues Encountered in the Case of Narrow Topics
- A researcher may not find the necessary amount of relevant information related to the chosen topic;
- The available resources cover a limited number of ideas that cannot be expanded into a paper of significant length;
- No relevant conclusions can be made since the available information is too specific;
- The relevance of the research topic is limited to a small population sample.
When any of the above-mentioned issues take place, rather than abandoning the effort to study a particular subject, it is advisable to look for parallels and different opportunities to draw on associations applicable to the initial research problem. Asking questions about possible players in the issue, the nature of accompanying problems, where the issue is taking place, how long it has been occurring, how the problem can be eliminated, and why the issue represents a concern for others is crucial. Through answering such questions, it is possible to offer a broader context for the study as well as provide a framework for future studies.
Testing for Research Topic Broadness
Apart from the amount of available information on a chosen topic, broadness can be tested by evaluating the popularity of the subject area itself. In this regard, two important elements should be considered. First, it is essential to evaluate the popularity of the chosen subject in terms of the general population that will go to the library and seek out studies on topics of interest. For example, more people will look for books by Stephen King or studies on human resource management than complex subjects such as animal symbolism. Although this perspective may be subjective, studying a subject from a social rather than strictly academic angle will yield a broader audience of readers. Second, evaluating the popularity of a topic in relation to students or academics that may have an interest is also important. Both mentioned elements will allow the researcher to determine whether a topic is broad enough to pursue an exploration.
Having to broaden a topic of research is not considered a particularly complex task because the opposite process, refinement, is usually harder to achieve. However, if a topic is too narrow, specialized, specific, or has not been researched before, finding information to incorporate into the research will be difficult. In order to understand how to broaden a topic, the following example can be used:
Are genetically modified strawberries safe for consumption?
The stated topic aims to answer a question for which available studies have not given an answer. Therefore, to find an answer, more long-term scientific research will need to be done. In order to broaden the suggested topic, the following steps are recommended:
Look for opportunities to broaden the association with other subjects:
- Is there an opportunity to analyze biologically engineered foods in general, not only strawberries? An abundance of literature on the subject of genetically modified foods is available, which supports broadening the subject.
- Is there a need to explore safety concerns? In the context of genetically modified products, what risks are present? Examination of possible risks associated with the consumption of biologically modified products will broaden the topic area and allow the researcher to present a range of subjects that could not have been included had the topic remained narrow.
- What parties play important roles in the controversy regarding genetically modified fruit? For example, what are the roles of scientists, consumer activists, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)?
- What other issues should be considered as they relate to this topic? For example, how should genetically modified foods be labeled?
Brainstorm the research topic with the help of available references.
- Choosing an alternate focus related to foods: instead of focusing on strawberries, genetically modified foods in general can be explored.
- Choosing an alternate place: offering a geographical area where such foods are produced can broaden the discussion. Relating a study subject to specific geographical or spatial issues may offer a new context to the study. For example, in some regions, the problem of genetically modified products may be more relevant compared to others.
- Providing a context in relation to relevant persons or groups: the opposition between consumer advocates and the FDA and their scientists serves as one example. Considering individual, collective, or institutional players in a research study will reveal how different subjects may approach the problem.
- Providing a context in relation to relevant events or aspects of the issue: this might include appropriate labeling of genetically modified foods or regulations concerning their consumption and selling. The relevant aspects and events of a problem will allow answering the question of what can be done to eliminate the issue of any adverse impact of genetically modified products.
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In broadening a research topic, it is possible to look for other opportunities to expand the analysis by means of using resources available to the general public. However, a researcher should never assume that the original research problem is defined too narrowly when beginning the process of seeking suitable or meaningful information to support the study. It is important to turn for help to a librarian before making any assumptions; librarians can guide scholars to undiscovered research or suggest steps for designing a more extensive analysis of a research problem. In broadening a research topic, a scholar should consider several aspects, such as the potential for examining associated subjects, underlying issues, the role of key players contributing to research relevancy, and solutions to the identified problem. Compared to the process of narrowing a study topic, broadening a subject area is less complex because cutting out details that may be relevant may lead to possible limitations and lost opportunities for research.