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The Research Process: Refine a Topic

A tutorial on doing research that gets the results you want.

Is your search too narrow?

If you are not finding enough information, your topic may be too narrow. Consider broadening it by:

  • Exploring related issues
  • Comparing or contrasting the topic with another topic
  • Expanding the:
    • time period covered
    • population considered
    • geographic area discussed
  • Choosing an alternative topic that is not so recent -- it may not be covered in books and journal articles yet
  • Choosing an alternative topic that is not so popular -- it may be covered in popular magazines and tabloids only

Is your search too broad?

If you are finding too much information, your topic may be too broad. Consider narrowing it by:

  • Time period -- 1920's, medieval period, etc.
  • Geographic location -- London, Stockholm, Germany, etc.
  • Population -- age, race, gender, nationality or other group
  • Smaller piece of the topic:

    • Genre -- jazz (music)
    • Event -- Battle of the Bulge (WWII)
    • Aspect -- government regulations (pollution)
    • Discipline or Subject -- music (in early childhood education)

Examples:

Broad: Painting

Narrower: How did religious change affect the themes of paintings in the 18th century?

Narrow: How are preschool children affected by the use of violent video games in their homes?

Broader: What are the affects of video games on young players?