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Phoenix: Choosing a Topic

What to sign up for and how, assignment related suggestions, and general information

What is a "Good" Subject/Topic?

1.  Significant To You and Others

2.  Requires Breadth of Research
A topic that requires a variety of sources from various points of views is interesting to you as well as your audience.

3.  Unique
A topic that has not been discussed at great length or frequency often engages you as well as your audience.

Creating a Thesis

A thesis is an assertion or claim about your topic.  It’s a complete sentence that presents your opinion on the topic and the reasons why you think it’s a good.  You present these reasons so your audience will agree with you. A thesis does the following:

1.    Focuses your thoughts so you can focus your research

2.    Keeps you on track when researching and writing

3.    Helps your audience follow your argument

A working thesis is the conclusion you start to create when narrowing the topic.  However, it is considered “working” because it may change as you continue to discover and evaluate information regarding your topic.  You may decide to focus on another angle or aspect based on research and/or interest. Even though the working thesis is not definite, creating one is very helpful to start focusing your research.

For more help go to the tutorial “How to Write a Thesis Statement” from Indiana University Bloomington.

Narrowing from Subject to Topic

An essential research skill is narrowing your topic to a manageable size. Whether you are researching to write an essay, a speech, or a presentation, the task is often to explain and analyze a topic in detail; therefore, choosing too large a topic makes that task impossible.

 There are three levels of focus to consider:

         Subject  –  the most broad
         Topic      –  less broad
         Thesis   –  the most focused

A subject is a broad section of human knowledge.  Some are more broad than others, but all subjects can be narrowed into several topics.  A topic is a subset of the subject

Subject     TO     Topic

   * Music      * Jimi Hendrix  
   * Women’s rights      * Birth Control

Usually, you need to make the topic narrower:

   Subject     TO     Topic     TO     Narrower

   * Music  * Jimi Hendrix  *Hendrix’s influence on contemporary guitarists

   * Women’s  * Birth Control  *Access to birth control rights for poor women

Even though these examples show a Narrower Topic, the process of narrowing further is still necessary to eventually discover the specific argument or working thesis.

Information on this page gathered from Santa Barbara City College.

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How to Determine Information Needed

A possible way to continue the process of narrowing a topic is to Determine Information Needed.

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