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IWU OCLS Tutorials: Develop a Search Strategy - Choose a Topic


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What are you interested in and curious about? Is there a question you would like answered?

Choosing a topic, you are interested in will help you remain engaged in your research.

Avoid choosing a topic because you think it will be "easy" because that can backfire. 



How do I choose a topic?


Read the article from Purdue OWL about choosing a topic. 





Need ideas for a Topic?


Here are some library databases that provide overviews of topics that can help you generate research ideas:




Your Topic - Too Much? Not Enough?


Too Broad 

If your topic is too broad, you will be overwhelmed with too much information, and much of it will be irrelevant to your research.

Examples of topics that are too broad include:

  • Global warming
  • Health care in the United States
  • Terrorism


To narrow your topic, make your search results more manageable and applicable.

Try making your topic more specific:

  • Global warming and carbon offsets
  • Health care in rural communities in the United States
  • The portrayal of terrorism by media outlets in the United States 


You can also narrow a topic by:

  • Place (obesity in the United States)
  • Time (women's liberation in the 1970s)
  • Population (impact of technology on toddlers)


Too Narrow 

If you are not finding many or any resources, it may be that your topic is too narrow. 

Examples of topics that may be too narrow include:

  • Revenue for the limousine service industry in Waco, Texas. 
  • The health benefits of jazz. 
  • The economic forces of soldiers during the battle at the Alamo.


Also, it could be there is no answer to your question - the research just hasn't been conducted on that aspect of your topic. Congratulations! You may have identified a gap in the literature. 


Just Right

With some work, you should be able to identify a topic that is neither too broad or too narrow that you find interesting.


Keep in mind that you may have to come back to this step after doing some research on your topic in order to narrow or broaden your topic. 



Ask a Question


The final step is to take your topic and create a research question. 

A topic can be too broad, but a question usually has an answer. 

  • What is the difference between the greenhouse effect and global warming?
  • Does access to healthcare in rural communities in the United States affect life expectancy? 
  • How does the portrayal of terrorism by media outlets in the United States affect people's attitudes and beliefs? 


Here are some resources to help you create a research question:

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  • Librarians may not be available all open hours, but will answer ASAP.