Narrowing Your Topic

When you do your research, you’ll either be writing a ‘problem paper‘ or an ‘initiative paper.’ Deciding which ‘frame’ to use is a key step in your research process.

A problem paper starts with a careful look at a problem and then explores its causes, effects and solutions. An ‘initiative paper’ starts with an examination of an initiative or program designed to address a social need or problem. It then examines the strengths of the initiative, the limitations of the initiative, and the next steps or alternatives to the initiative.

Most of the topics listed on the Possible Topics page fit nicely into either of these frames. Here are examples:

Topic: Female literacy

An initiative paper would start with an initiative aimed at increasing literacy or schooling for girls and women, and then would explore the strengths, limitations, and next steps or alternatives to that initiative. Initiatives might include programs that give bicycles to girls who attend secondary schools, ‘Total Literacy Campaigns’ or  even mid-day meal programs which make it easier for families to send all children to school.

problem paper would start from a specific, identified problem related to female literacy (e.g., lower literacy rates among women) and would examine its causes, effects, and solutions.

Topic: Air Quality

An initiative paper would start with an initiative aimed at improving air quality, and then would explore the strengths, limitations, and next steps or alternatives to that initiative. Initiatives might include efforts to limit road dust, improve public transportation, reduce industrial pollutants.

problem paper would start from a specific, identified problem related to female literacy (e.g., high rates of PM 2.5 ) and would examine its causes, effects, and possible solutions.

If you would like to do an initiative paper, but aren’t sure where to start, check out the Topic Resources pages on this blog. Many of them include lists of initiatives related to the topics!

 

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