How to Narrow Down Research Paper Topic

After deciding on the topic for your research the next step is to narrow down research paper topic. Narrowing the topic for your research paper helps you make it more manageable and feasible to be undertaken in a timely manner. This step is very important for your research paper since this helps pave the way for a successful research project. The best way to narrow down research paper topic is to think about the limitations of your research project and decide how you can narrow down your topic. These limitations bound you to work in an organized manner and keep you on a track during each step of the research paper writing.

Following limitations must be considered as a guideline when you have to narrow down research paper topic:

Length of the research paper

Many research paper assignments are assigned with a limit of minimum and maximum length, this length can be the length of words or the number of pages that you have to write and submit. Sometimes the teachers do not assign any length then you have to decide from your own judgment how long your assignment should be. You cannot start writing a research paper without knowing its length doing this will only make it difficult for you to manage it.

Once you know the length of your research paper you are better able to narrow down research paper topic and make it manageable. Think about a topic statement that you can easily write in the limit of words or pages that your teacher has asked you.

Time available to complete assignment

Just like the length of the assignment the time in which you have to complete the assignment has its role in narrowing down the research paper topic. Research papers have limited time duration to complete and this helps you learn how to plan and execute a project in a timely fashion. This helps you learn how to carry on lengthy theses and dissertations later on in life.

While you are narrowing down the topic you should think how much time you have to complete this assignment. A research paper that has to be submitted in 3 months is different from the one that has to be submitted in 6 months, each has its own limitations. Remember the rule lesser the time more specific the topic should be and the more specific the topic the more manageable it will be for you.

Material available for research

You should be able to collect sufficient material related to your topic so that you are on the safe side while working on your research project. There are topics that are of greater significance but you do not have enough material available in your library or in any library nearby. Today you have an option to search material related to your topic in the print and the nonprint sources. Think about whether it is possible to collect sufficient material in the print sources? If the material you are looking for is not available in the print sources can you find it in the nonprint sources? Does your teacher allow you to use both print and the nonprint sources or you are bound to use only the print sources or the library?

Print sources

The library is a great source of research and often teachers ask students to get material from the library. Libraries have a limited amount of material available and this one limitation makes it difficult for you to search any topic of your interest. This poses another limitation for your research paper topic, you have to narrow down research paper topic in such a manner that you get sufficient material from your library.

Nonprint sources

Nonprint sources like the internet have unlimited information available about any topic and you are not limited to few books or journals. There are e-books, e-journals, websites that have articles, blogs and other resources that you can use in your research. Although you should know what sources on the internet are reliable and what is not, also ask your teacher whether you can use the internet sources or not?

Audience of your research paper

What is the audience for your research paper and how it can affect the way you should narrow down your research paper? Ask these questions to yourself before narrowing down the research paper topic. Whether the audience is your classmates or someone outside your campus you should know it beforehand because this will determine what you should write and what they want to read?


  • Roth, A. J., The Research Paper: Process, Form, and Content, Wadsworth Publishing Co., 8th Ed., 1999, Pp-42-45
  • USC Libraries Research Guides, Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper: Narrowing a Topic Idea,, Last updated on: Jan 3, 2018 10:33 AM



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