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ME 4421: Biomechanical Engineering

Choosing a Topic

Sometimes choosing a topic is the most difficult part of the research process.  Below are some guidelines for choosing a topic:

  • Choose a topic that interests you, you will spending a lot of time exploring and reading about this topic.  
  • Review the assignment from your professor noting the scope of the paper, project or presentation.  Be sure to note if the professor requires specific kinds of resources such as scholarly, peer-reviewed journal articles. 
  • Explore your topic by getting background information from your textbook, class notes or general books on the topic.  
  • Generate keywords related to your topic and then choose a library database to test out your keywords and topic in.  

Broaden your topic

So, you may have searched for your topic in a database and only found a few relevant results.  Try the following to broaden your topic.  

  • Try different keywords in your searches.
  • Think of related topics or larger topics.  For example: instead of gait and 40 year old men, try gait and middle aged adults.  
  • Sometimes you may have to change your topic.  If you topic is newer, new scholarly research may not have been conducted yet.  

Narrow your topic

Sometimes you have the opposite problem and find yourself with an overwhelming number of results.  Try the following to focus and narrow your topic.  

  • Components: Break down your larger topic into smaller components or sub-topics.
  • Relationship : How do two or more different perspectives or variables relate to one another? [e.g., cause/effect, compare/contrast, male/female, problem/solution].
  • 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].

Adapted from USC Libraries, Strategies for Narrowing the Research Topic