Narrow or Broaden Topic

Finding too much or not enough information on your topic? 

question mark with thinking icon

Finding too much information?

  • First, consider what you know about the subject and create a list of keywords.
  • Use Wikipedia or a database like CQ Researcher to give you ideas on areas to explore inside your topic.
  • Next, consider describing the who, what, when and where of your topic.
    • Who do you want to write about (e.g. Congress, immigrants, women, children)?
    • What aspect of the topic interests you (e.g. legal, historical, ethical)?
    • When in history are you interested (e.g. 18th century, 1981-1985)?
    • Where, or what geographical region are you curious about (e.g. Minnesota, Midwest, United States, Middle East)?

Librarians love to help you brainstorm and find ideas; you can AskUs! for help narrowing your topic.

Finding too little information?

Topics can be too narrow, requiring you to broaden your scope. In these cases you should look for broader topics and ideas

  • One easy way to do this is by broadening the components of your topic. Think about the broad aspects of your topic, such as the issues or key players.
  • Can you generalize the issue, or find related issues or industries or locations?
  • Another way to find more information is to develop additional keywords related to your topic. Ask yourself "What are some synonyms to the terms you were already using?"
  • Are there databases or indexes you haven’t searched in yet?
  • Keep in mind, some topics are so new (especially current events), books may be scarce, so you might want to look at newspapers, web pages, government reports, and other sources.

Again, you can ask a librarian for assistance in broadening and expanding the search criteria.