HIST 117:Bombay/Mumbai: Making of a Modern Metropolis

Professor: Aparna Kapadia
Fall 2023

Choosing a Research Topic

In research studies students have reported that defining and narrowing a topic are some of the most challenging parts of doing a research paper. If you are feeling overwhelmed and uncertain, you are not alone!

When choosing a topic, consider these questions:

  • What ideas from class discussions and readings most draw your attention?
  • What questions continually pique your interest?
  • What course assignments or ideas do you want to delve more deeply into?
  • What topic related to the course has not been fully covered?

See also Brainstorming techniques (UNC Writing Center).

Narrowing a Research Topic

After choosing a topic, you will likely need to narrow it to fit within the length of the paper you need to write. Consider the following questions in relation to your topic.

Do you want to focus on or compare:

  • a specific person or group of people? (who)
  • a specific date, year, or decade? (when)
  • a specific city, state, region, or country? (where)

Depending on the level of specificity you choose, combining all of these answers together may lead to a research question that is too narrow. As you explore primary and secondary sources, periodically re-assess whether your research question is too narrow or too broad and revise as needed.


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Tath Haver
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