Whether assigned a general issue to investigate, you are given a list of problems to study, or you have to identify your own topic to investigate, it is important that the research problem the guides your study is not too broad, otherwise, it will be very difficult to adequately address the problem in the space and time allowed. You could experience a number of problems if your topic is too broad, including:
Lloyd-Walker, Beverly and Derek Walker. "Moving from Hunches to a Research Topic: Salient Literature and Research Methods." In Designs, Methods and Practices for Research of Project Management. Beverly Pasian, editor. (Burlington, VT: Gower Publishing, 2015), pp. 119-129.
The most common challenge when beginning to write a research paper is narrowing down your topic. Even if your professor gives you a specific topic to study, it will almost never be so specific that you won’t have to narrow it down at least to some degree [besides, grading fifty papers that are all about the exact same thing is very boring!].
A topic is too broad to be managable when you find that you have too many different, and oftentimes conflicting and only remotely related, ideas about how to investigate the research problem. Although you will want to start the writing process by considering a variety of different approaches to studying the research problem, you will need to narrow the focus of your investigation at some point. This way, you don't attempt to do too much in one paper.
Here are some strategies to help focus your topic into something more manageable:
NOTE: Apply one of the above first to determine if that gives you a manageable research problem to investigate; combining multiple strategies risks creating the opposite problem--your topic becomes too narrowly defined and you can't locate enough research or data to support your study.
Coming Up With Your Topic. Institute for Writing Rhetoric. Dartmouth College; Narrowing a Topic. Writing Center. University of Kansas; Narrowing Topics. Writing@CSU. Colorado State University; Strategies for Narrowing a Topic. University Libraries. Information Skills Modules. Virginia Tech University; The Process of Writing a Research Paper. Department of History. Trent University; Ways to Narrow Down a Topic. Contributing Authors. Utah State OpenCourseWare.