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Research Map: Focus your Topic

Use the 5Ws in the Research Map to help you focus your topic.

Using the Research Map

1. Write your general topic on the top line.

2. Brainstorm Who, What When, Where, and Why. (Don't judge, just write your ideas on the map!)

3. In each category, circle or highlight what you think are the most interesting or best topic ideas to explore further. 

Pro Tip: Topic Exploration

If you find you don't know enough about your topic to fill out the research map, try exploring your topic first by....

  • Asking a friend, teacher or librarian
  • Looking for background information on the web, books, or library databases

Topic exploration give you enough background information to proceed with formulating your research question. You may or may not use the sources you find in your paper>

See Databases for topic exploration on the Databases tab.

Research Map: Five W's



Topic:          Hint:  General topic, doesn't need to be specific.

Who? Hint: Who is affected by this topic? (demographics)
What? Hint: Impact or aspects of the topic
When? Hint: The timeframe of interest. If “now” how far back will the info be accurate?
Where? Hint: This could be the United States, a particular area, or a comparison of one or more areas. (May or may not be important.)
Why? Hint: What is the significance or importance of this topic to you or the reader?

Topic:       Cosmetic Surgery


teens, celebrities, Pamela Anderson, actors, cancer survivors

What? body image, role model, medical necessity, physical or psychological discomfort, pressure to be beautiful
When? Now (last 5 years), since 2000, within 1 year

United States, worldwide, Instagram, Los Angeles


Necessity, cost/expense, bullying, expectations of beauty or youth, health risks, wanting to fit into clothes.

Topic Exploration Databases

Use these databases to get background information on your topic, answer the 5 W's, and look for search terms. You might even find a source you can use in your paper!