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ENG 2100 - Research Writing and Argumentation: 2a. Refine Your Topic

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Your Search Strategy should include an understanding of what to do if you are not finding enough information or if you are finding too much information.

Strategies for Narrowing and Broadening your Topic

Is Your Topic Too Narrow?

If you are not finding enough information, your topic may be too narrow. 


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

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

Consider broadening it by

  • 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 -- your topic may not be covered in books and journal articles yet.
  • Choosing an alternative topic that is not so popular -- your topic may be covered in popular magazines and tabloids only.

Is Your Topic Too Broad?

If you are finding too much information, your topic may be too broad.


Broad Topic: How can we solve the problem of organized crime?

Narrower Topic: How valid is the argument that legalizing currently illegal drugs would diminish the crime rate?

Consider narrowing it by:

  • Time period -- 1960s, bronze age, etc.
  • Geographic location -- Denver, New York, Australia, etc.
  • Population -- age, race, gender, nationality or other group.
  • Smaller piece of the topic:

    • Genre -- jazz (music)
    • Event -- Battle of the Bulge (WWII)
    • Aspect -- government regulations (pollution)
    • Discipline or Subject -- music (in early childhood education)

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