When you have a possible subject to pursue, your next task is to narrow and focus the topic. It is best to have a specific question about your topic that you want to explore a possible answer to. Keep in mind, this won’t be a factual question that has a set right or wrong answer.

You can develop your focused topic by using the following steps to narrow your subject:

  1. Generate a list of more specific areas of interest (subtopics) related to your overall topic

    • For example:
      • Subtopics related to education:
        • Online education
        • Traditional education model
        • Common Core
        • STEM education
  2. Generate a list of questions that you’d like to explore related to your subtopics

    • For example:
      • Questions related to education:
        • What is the future of online education?
        • Is the traditional education model the most effective?
        • Does the Common Core result in better prepared students?
        • What are the effects of moving toward STEM education?
        • How can we better fund education in America?

Once you have generated as many research questions as you can for narrowing the topic, choose the option that is most interesting to you and that you think will best fit the length and purpose of your assignment.

Developing a Focus

The research question you choose to explore will be your project’s focus. Your focus should describe the most important point you want to convey to readers or what you hope to accomplish.

  • This focus will be transformed into your thesis statement—a response or answer to a question, a statement that indicates your argument, or what conclusion you have reached about your focused topic. Your essay will be an extension of your thesis statement where you explain, support, and apply your focused topic very specifically.
  • Be sure to write down the focus you develop so that you can refer to it as you begin to research and write your paper. The purpose of a focus is to help you begin researching in a clear direction, help you organize your thoughts and ideas, and to keep you on track as you write.
  • As you develop your paper, you may find that you have changed your mind about the direction of your paper. In this case, simply go back and modify your focus. Most writers do not finalize their thesis statement until the last draft of their paper, so think about the focus as merely a starting guideline that is flexible and subject to change.