Research Process

Focus Your Topic

Keep it manageable and be flexible. If you start doing more research and not finding enough sources that support your thesis, you may need to adjust your topic.

A topic will be very difficult to research if it is too broad or narrow. One way to narrow a broad topic such as "the environment" is to limit your topic. Some common ways to limit a topic are:

  • by geographic area

Example: What environmental issues are most important in the Southwestern United States?

  • by culture

Example: How does the environment fit into the Navajo world view?

  • by time frame:

Example: What are the most prominent environmental issues of the last 10 years?

  • by discipline

Example: How does environmental awareness effect business practices today?

  • by population group

Example: What are the effects of air pollution on senior citizens?

Remember that a topic may be too difficult to research if it is too:

  • locally confined - Topics this specific may only be covered in local newspapers and not in scholarly articles.

Example: What sources of pollution affect the Genesee County water supply?

  • recent - If a topic is quite recent, books or journal articles may not be available, but newspaper or magazine articles may. Also, websites related to the topic may or may not be available.
  • broadly interdisciplinary - You could be overwhelmed with superficial information.

Example: How can the environment contribute to the culture, politics and society of the Western United States?

  • popular - You will only find very popular articles about some topics such as sports figures and high-profile celebrities and musicians.

Putting your topic in the form of a question will help you focus on what type of information you want to collect.

If you have any difficulties or questions with focusing your topic, discuss the topic with your instructor, or with a librarian.

Chat with a Librarian