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How to Do Research: A Step-By-Step Guide: 1e. Refine a Topic

How to do research

Is Your Topic Too Broad?

If you are finding too much information, your research topic may be too                B R O A D.   Consider narrowing it to a more specific:

 Time Civil War, Iron Age, 1920's, 18th Century
 Location Europe, U.S., New York state, urban, eastern
 Population age, race, gender, nationality, ethnic group, occupation
 Event or Aspect government regulations related to cloning, Battle of the Bulge in WWII
 Person or Group college students, Democrats, Republicans

Broad Topic: Global warming

Narrower Topic: How will climate change impact sea levels and the coastal United States?

Is Your Topic Too Narrow?

If you are finding too little information, your topic may be too NARROW, specialized, or current. Use these strategies to broaden your topic.


Generalize your topic.  If your topic is the economic effects of fracking on Troy, PA, broaden your topic to all Pennsylvania communities or the United States.


If your topic is very current, there may not be books or journal articles available yet. Choose an alternative topic that is not so recent.
 Database Choice Use other databases in your subject area or consider databases in a related subject area which might cover the topic from a different perspective.
 Synonyms Use a thesaurus to find synonyms for your topic. When reading background information, note the terminology that is used.
 Related Explore related issues.
 Expand / Remove Expand or remove: location, time period, aspect, event, population, person/group.

Example of a Narrow Topic:  Does cartoon viewing cause aggression in children under age five?

Broader:  What are the negative effects of TV on children and adolescents?