COMM 2010: Introduction to Communication Theory

Refining Your Topic

This guide will help you find scholarly sources and use them to analyze the media example choose for your COMM 2010 theory application paper and presentation.

Students tend to choose research topics that are too broad or too general for their paper. You will write a better paper if you ask a focused research question. This page provides brainstorming strategies to help you narrow in on a focused topic.

Tips for Asking a Good Research Question:

  • Ask a question that you are genuinely curious about. Choose a topic that is intrinsically interesting to you, and leave yourself room to be surprised by some of the results. 
  •  Make sure the scope of your question is narrow enough that you can do it justice in the amount of space/pages you have been assigned. 

What Do You Know / What Do You Want to Know

Fold a piece of paper in half. On one side, list everything you already know about your topic. On the other side, jot down every question you have about your topic.

Key Concepts & Search Strategies

  1. Write your research question and identify the key concepts in the question.
  2. (Try to find three key concepts.) 
  3. Write down these key concepts, then identify synonyms or related terms to use when searching for information.
  4. Search for your concepts by testing the terms identified in library databases.
  5. Examine results and refine your research strategy and/or your topic.

*Note: The Search Strategy Worksheet provided below can provide a framework for this process.

Mind Maps

Mind maps help you think through all the different directions that you could take with your topic. Here's how to make a mind map:
  • Write your main topic in the center of the page.
  • Brainstorm all the ideas you can think of associated with that topic, and add a spoke to your mind map for each idea.
  • Keep going! Now that you have subtopics, brainstorm ideas associated with them. The more specific you can get, the better.