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Research Process: A Step-By-Step Guide: 2c. Refine a Topic

A guide to help you through the steps of the research process.

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 be more specific:

Time Civil War, Iron Age, 1920's, 18th Century
Location Europe, U.S., New York, urban, eastern
Population age, race, gender, nationality, ethnic group, occupation
Event or Aspect government regulations related to patents, The Paris Attacks in terrorism
Person or Group college students, Democrats, Republicans

Broad Topic: Classical Greek Sculpture

Narrower Topic: The evolution of the male form in classical Greek sculpture.

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 dyes and pigments used in tattooing, broaden your topic to tattooing techniques, materials and traditions.


If your topic is very current, there may not be books or journal articles available yet. Use reputable internet resources, newspapers, weekly magazines, social media sites, and other sources of reliable current event coverage.
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 playing violent video games increase aggression in adolescent boys?

Broader:  Does violent media increase aggression in adolescents?

Research is a Process: Refining and Broadening Your Topic