SOC WEL 114: Introduction to Social Work Methods


Read more

This guide has been archived

Please note: this course guide was created during a previous semester, and is no longer being actively maintained. For a list of current course guides, please see

Find a Topic

Find a Topic or Get an Overview

Use an encyclopedia, dictionary, browse popular magazines, view a new book shelf in the library or bookstore, brainstorm with your classmates.  These are a few ways to think of a topic for research.  Then explore the library's digital and print resources to learn more.

How to Narrow Your Topic

"I'm writing a paper on World War II." 

Often students start their research with a very general topic, even though they may realize the topic is too large to deal with in a 10-15 page paper.  Faculty and librarians tell them, "You have to narrow this down."  But how do you narrow a topic?

Thought experiments to try:

  • Think about your topic from the disciplinary perspective.  In a social welfare class you might ask a question like "How did WWII affect women?"   or "What social welfare programs began during WWII?"
  • Think about subsets or aspects of your topic.  Some good aspects are:
    • by place, such as a country or region
    • by time period, such as a century, decade or year 
    • by population, such as men, women, ethnic group, youth, children or elderly

You can combine these ideas, "What were the major impacts of WWII on immigrants in the U.S, in the decade after the war?"

Take a look at our brief tutorial on topic selection and narrowing. (Slides 5-9 of the tutorial deal with topic narrowing.)


Social work dictionary (5th ed.) / Barker, Robert L. Washington, DC : NASW Press, c2003.
HV12 .B37 2003

Dictionary of Psychology from Oxford Reference Online

Concise Oxford  English Spanish Dictionary (also links to Spanish/English Dictionary)

Key words in multicultural interventions : a dictionary / Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, 1999.
BF637.C6 K493 1999

Blackwell dictionary of modern social thought / Malden, MA : Blackwell Pub., c2003.
H41 .B53 2003

 English Spanish Dictionary of Health Related Terms, California Mexico Health Initiative, 2005.


Last Update: February 04, 2014 15:19 | Tagged with: social work social welfare