Selecting & Refining a Research Topic

| Tips for Selecting a Topic | Refining a Research Topic |

Tips for Selecting a Research Topic

For many academic courses, a major portion of your grade will depend on the successful completion of a project requiring library research, and since you will probably devote a significant amount of time and effort to the project, it makes sense to select a rewarding topic. Here are a few tips for getting started:

Refining a Research Topic

The most common problem in library research arises when a student chooses a topic that is too broad and is faced with an overwhelming amount of published material. To make a broad topic more manageable, it is absolutely essential to focus on a narrower aspect of the subject. A few commonly used ways of narrowing a topic are:

In the case of topics in literature, it may be possible to narrow by focusing on:

Sometimes students make the mistake of choosing a topic that is too narrow. If you search diligently and find very little published information, your topic may be too specific. If your topic has more than three main concepts, try dropping the least important of them, or consider replacing one of your main concepts with a broader term. If your research is in the field of literature, it may be possible to broaden the topic by doing a comparative study of two or more literary works by the same author (or by different authors).

Click here to learn more about how to plan your search strategy.

Please send your comments to Joan Reitz, Haas Instruction Librarian, Western Connecticut State University.
Last updated on August 25, 2005