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Lehigh University Libraries - Library Guides

Research Process: A Step-By-Step Guide: 1e. Refine a Topic

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., Denver, 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

Generalize your topic.  If your topic is the health effects of fracking on the Ft. Lupton community, broaden your topic to all Colorado communities or the United States.

Currency

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?