The Ellen Clarke Bertrand Library

FOUN 098 54: Global Dress: Session 2: Developing your topic

Focusing your Topic & Starting your Research

Other Tips

Signs your topic is just right:

  • You can find (maybe with a librarian’s help) sufficient appropriate resources on your topic.
  • You can create a focused research question and hypothesis.
  • Once you find some information, you can create a well-organized outline which includes specific statements, evidence, and reasonable conclusions.

Signs your topic is too broad: This is more common, and unfortunately, can be more difficult to fix. Keep in mind that your topic can/should change a little bit as you read and learn more about it.

Things you can change/focus or even ask a question based around.

  • Aspect or sub-area:  Consider only one piece of the subject.  For example, if your topic is human cloning, investigate government regulation of cloning.
  • Time:  Limit the time span you examine.  For example, on a topic in genetics, contrast public attitudes in the 1950's versus the 1990's.
  • Population group:  Limit by age, sex, race, occupation, species or ethnic group.  For example, on a topic in genetics, examine specific traits as they affect women over 40 years of age.
  • Geographical location:  A geographic analysis can provide a useful means to examine an issue.   For example, if your topic concerns cloning, investigate cloning practices in Europe or the Middle East. 

Example too-broad question: What makes Amazon a successful company?

  • Aspect or sub-area:  How did Amazon’s two-day shipping change consumer expectations for online shopping?
  • Time:  How did Amazon’s early history (pre-2000) shape the company it became?
  • Population group:  How are labor rights groups criticizing Amazon? In what ways might this be impacting the companies success or practices?
  • Geographical location:  How does Amazon adjust its services and business model when operating in countries outside of the United States (maybe find one or two to learn about specifically)?

Too narrow An example of a topic that is too-narrow is one that it is hard to find any reliable information on. You may have to remove limiters on time, place, population, etc. Topics that are too narrow might also be too recent, and unlikely to have been written about outside of unedited web sources.

Example too narrow question: What was the ecological impact of the 2007 California Wildfires? (You might not be able to find anything specifically about the 2007 Wildfires.)

  • What is the ecological impact of California Wildfires?
  • How have California Wildfires impacted native wildlife? 
  • How do wildfires in the Western United States disproportionately impact indigenous populations?