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Tips for Narrowing Your Research Topic

October 04, 2016

The Porter Henderson Library shares tips on how to narrow research topics and how to use Library resources for narrowing topics.

How do I know if I need to narrow my topic?

  • Your research idea is broad (e.g., I want to write about social media.).
  • When searching, you receive a large number of results that cover many different subjects on your topic.
  • Your professor told you it is too broad.

How do I narrow my topic?

Consider your topic in terms of Who, What, Where, When, and Why.

Who – limit to a specific population or group (e.g., teenagers, male, Asian Americans)

What – discipline or focus (e.g., business, education, health)

Where – location (e.g., USA, Southwest, Texas, in school, at work)

When – time period or era (e.g., 1970s, current day, young adulthood, during work hours)

Why – why is this topic important (e.g., impact on social skills, changing our culture)

Librarian Tip: creating a Concept Map is a great way to visualize your topic from broad to narrow subject areas.

Where do I find narrow subjects for my topic?

Look in Encyclopedias and Specialized Encyclopedias (such as those in Gale Virtual Reference Library) to discover important subjects as they relate to your topic.

Use the Subject limiter in U-Search (or other databases) to see different subjects relevant to your topic.

Get more ideas by using Subject Browse in RamCat to see a list of subjects relevant to your topic AND view narrower subject terms.