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Information Literacy, Level Two: Refining your research topic

Some questions to help narrow your topic

If you are retrieving too much information, you should narrow your topic's scope.

If your topic seems too broad, consider these questions:

  • What do you already know about the subject?
  • Is there a specific time period you want to cover?
  • Is there a geographic region or country on which you would like to focus on specifically?
  • Is there a particular aspect of this topic that interests you? For example, historical influence, sociological aspects, psychological angles, specific groups or individuals involved in the topic.
    •  Think of: Who, Where, When, and Why?
  • Browse search results to find a particular aspect of your topic that you see repeated and rewrite your research question/search terms to focus in on that new aspect.

Examples of expanding and narrowing your topic

To see examples for expanding and narrowing your topic, you can review the box on the Information Literacy, Level 1 Guide.

 

Some questions to help broaden your topic

If you are not retrieving enough information, you should broaden your topic's scope.

If your topic is so specific that you can't find sources that address it, consider these questions:

  • Could you add elements to your topic for examination?
  • Could you think more broadly about this topic? Give thought to the wider implications of your research.
  • Who are the key players in this topic?
  • What other issues are involved in this topic?
  • Eliminate any very specific keywords from your searches.

Stay open minded and open to change during your research

As you are investigating your topic you will need to stay open minded and open to the fact your original topic of research might change since:

  • Chances are that you aren't going to pick a perfectly focused research question right from the start, and that's okay!  Remember, research is an "investigation" and as you gather facts your investigation may change course. So don't be afraid to change or even completely discard your initial research question.  
  • You also may find that you are unable to locate as many resources as you initially thought, or you may find that there is a more interesting or important aspect of your topic that you uncover as you get into research.  

For these reasons, keep in mind that It is important to start research early so you have enough time to adapt and be flexible as you research.

Refining your search

Courtesy of Norwich University - Kreitzberg Library