Library Research: A Step-By-Step Guide

Use this guide to learn more about the research process

Refine your topic

Not finding enough info?

I'm not finding enough info OR I'm finding too much info and don't know what to choose.  What do I do?

  • Based on the background  info you have gathered, you may decide to slightly change your topic focus
    • that is okay and is a normal part of research
  • you may need to broaden or narrow your topic 
  • you will likely refine your topic throughout your research process
    • be flexible
    • be persistent
    • don't get frustrated - ask a librarian for help!

Is your topic too broad?

Narrowing and Refining Your Topic

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

  • Time period -- too broad: women's roles | narrower: women's roles in the 1950s
  • Geographic location -- too broad: Islamic extremism | narrower: Islamic extremism in Britain
  • Population -- (age, race, gender, nationality or other group)
    • too broad: diabetes | narrower: diabetes among Native Americans
  • Smaller piece of the topic:
    • Genre -- too broad: American music | narrower: American hip hop
    • Event -- too broad: World War II | narrower: Battle of the Bulge
    • Aspect -- too broad: global warming | narrower: global warming's impact on marine mammals
    • Discipline or Subject -- too broad: children's use of computers | narrower: children's use of computers in special education classes

Is your topic too narrow?

Broadening and Refining Your Topic

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

  • 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


Too Narrow of a Topic: Does cartoon viewing cause violent behaviors in children under the age of five?

A Better, Broader Topic:  What are the negative effects of television viewing on children and adolescents?

Strategies for refining your topic