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Master of Public Health

" "Topics

The research process begins with identifying your topic. Use your course readings and discussions as starting places to discover areas of interest. Start topic brainstorming with what interests you most. The more interested your are in your topic, the easier it will be to research!

How to Narrow Your Topic

Having a narrow topic will save you hours of research. Take the time to answer these questions to narrow your topic:


    • What is your topic?
    • What other issues/ events are similar or related to your topic?
  • Who?

    • Who is affected by your topic? Think of groups, corporations, governments
    • Who is involved?
  • How?

    • How does your topic impact society, culture, politics, economics, etc.?
  • Why?

    • Why does this topic matter to you?
    • Why should it matter to others?

Just Right Topics

  • Too Broad: How did housing insecurity impact the spread of COVID-19?
  • Too Narrow: How was COVID awareness spread among unhoused youth in Zambia?
  • Just Right: How did housing insecurity impact the implementation of COVID-19 testing programs in the United States?
  • Too Broad: How does secondhand smoke impact acute asthma?
  • Too Narrow: How does the EPA regulate emissions from marijuana farms?
  • Just Right: How does the increase of legalization and use of cannabis impact lung health?

Student seated next to backpack reading a journal in the mezzanine" " Background Research

To help familiarize yourself with your topic, it is helpful to do background research in encyclopedias, dictionaries, etc. Background research can also help with:

  • Identifying keywords and synonyms for searches
  • Determining if your topic is too broad or too narrow
  • Identifying sub-topics
  • Seeing if there is current research on your topic

Find Background Research

Use the following resources to get a general, high-level information about your area of interest

Other good resources for background research include:

  • Your textbook or course materials
  • Popular magazines or newspapers, available in the Bistro
  • Credible websites

students talking around one open laptop in the reference room" " Research Questions

The end goal of the initial stage of research is to form a research question. This question is going to guide you as you conduct your research and guide your audience as they read your paper or view your project.

Research questions...

  • usually begin with a How or Why statement.
  • are narrow in focus.
  • are timely (an issue currently discussed in the literature)
  • possesses utility (your question contributes something to the field of research)

Workable research questions with a checkmark on the left and an x on the right

Workable Research Questions Unworkable Research Questions

How does pet ownership affect college students mental health?

This question prompts you to look at multiple perspectives on pet ownership and mental health.

How does pet ownership decrease stress for college students?

This question contains bias as it is assuming that pets will decrease stress, which would make you unlikely to research where pet ownership might increase stress.

How does daily Instagram usage affect teenagers' self esteem?

This question is focused and relevant, and will be easier to organize your research and writing.

How does social media affect people's behavior?

This is too broad!

How does the history of the Southern Baptist Convention influence the experience of African American SBC pastors?

Notice how specific this topic has become. To go from racism in the USA, I first narrowed down to racism and Christianity in the US, and finally to racism within a specific denomination.

Does racism exist in the USA?

This question is both too broad and can be answered quickly: yes! Avoid yes or no questions.