The most important part of the research process is to develop a research question. Often, we start with a general idea, but general ideas are too broad to research. Use reference sources like encyclopedias to help you narrow down your focus. You may begin with a tentative thesis in mind, but reading secondary sources should help you refine this thesis and shape your paper.
Here are some guidelines to consider when selecting, developing and refining a topic.
If you are finding too much information, your research topic may be too broad. Consider narrowing it to a more specific topic, using one or more of these limiters:
|Time||Civil War, Iron Age, 1920s, 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?
If you are finding too little information, your topic may be too narrow, specialized, or current. Use these strategies to broaden 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.|
|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.|
Narrow Topic: Does watching cartoons with action violence cause aggression in children under age five?
Broader Topic: Does viewing violent TV shows have negative effects on young children?