Narrow Down Your Interests


Often one of the more difficult tasks for nascent researchers is to focus and narrow the scope of their research project. Despite its difficulty, its a crucial activity to undertake in order to make your project more manageable and successful*.

*Success in research is different than success in many other areas. Failure will happen and it is often embraced and encouraged, as you will soon find out.

Gather your planning worksheet and all of the other notes and thoughts you have taken so far and lay everything out in front of you.  Begin by searching for any recurring themes or topics and taking notes when they appear.  You should be able to see some common topics emerging and places of emphasis popping up.  Make sure to consider the advice given to you by your peers, advisor, and/or faculty. Write down the potential subjects that emerge.

Once you have written down all of the potential subjects, it is time to narrow down your options to three choices.  Look over everything one more time to see if there are any subjects written down twice or if any of them can be combined.  Once that is done, the hard part begins.

Narrowing down to your top three choices requires you to dream big but also be realistic about your abilities and limitations.  When you’re weighing your options and debating between subjects, think about the skills you already have and what areas you have a decent knowledge-base in, and then use that information to guide your decisions.  Doing so is not taking an easy route, your research experience will be challenging regardless of your topic, but it does set you up with a better chance to make substantive progress and gain more skills along the way.

Once you have thought about the subjects that you can excel at the most and weighed that against your top interests, make your top three choices.  As always, write down your thoughts and keep a journal of your decision.  This will help with your strategic thinking and give you a frame of reference when you return to the subject.

Next – Make a Decision