The Research Pyramid

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One of the perennial problems I find students have with research is choosing a topic of appropriate scope—not too broad and not too narrow. To help students find the right focus, have them review the material on choosing a research topic in the handbook. Then have them make a “research pyramid” for their topics by imagining the broadest possible version of their topic and then making it more and more refined as it nears a top of over-specificity. Students can then determine what level of the pyramid would make the best topic. For example, the base of a pyramid might be immigration and the very top might be Indian immigrants in Silicon Valley. Testing each level of the pyramid with a quick database search at the library will help students determine which level provides the best balance of material and focus.
About the Author
Barclay Barrios is an Associate Professor of English and Director of Writing Programs at Florida Atlantic University, where he teaches freshman composition and graduate courses in composition methodology and theory, rhetorics of the world wide web, and composing digital identities. He was Director of Instructional Technology at Rutgers University and currently serves on the board of Pedagogy. Barrios is a frequent presenter at professional conferences, and the author of Emerging.