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ENG 1100 - Academic Writing and Reading: 2. Search Strategies

A research guide of recommended information resources for ENG 1100

Why do I need a search strategy?

Having a strategy saves time and produces better results!

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)

Recommended Background Sources

Once you have identified some key terminology, the next step is to find background information on your topic.  Background research serves many purposes.

  • If you are unfamiliar with the topic, it provides a good overview of the subject matter.
  • It helps you to identify important facts related to your topic: terminology, dates, events, history, and names or organizations.
  • It can help you to refine your topic.

Use these databases to find background information:

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