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Mathematics: 1. Topic Development

Topic Development

You can save yourself hours of frustration by taking the time to develop and focus your topic. 

The Academic Skills Centre at Trent University has a tutorial on how to select and narrow a topic or analyze an assigned topic.

Selecting a topic

  • If permitted, choose a topic that interests you.
  • Brainstorm ideas.  Try creating a concept map to develop a topic.
  • Discuss ideas with your classmates, TAs or professors. 
  • Look in newspapers and subject relevant journals for ideas.
  • Do some background reading in general or subject specific encyclopedias or other reference books to get an overview of a topic.
  • Don't forget to take notes and record information about interesting resources you find while exploring a topic.
  • Be sure the topic meets the requirements of the assignment.

Narrowing a topic

  • Think about specific aspects that interest you.
  • Consider different viewpoints.
  • Think about specific time periods, population groups (e.g. gender, age, culture), and geographic areas.
  • Think about Who, What, When, Where and Why?


Start early to determine if the scope of a topic is manageable in the time you have to complete your assignment and so that you know if there are available resources on the topic.