Your assignment may require you to pick a topic from a broad theme or subject area, such as entertainment and media.
When your topic is too broad:
Here are some strategies for narrowing down your topic to a manageable size.
Find your passion
Think about the aspect of the assignment that most fascinates you. This will make the whole assignment easier and even fun.
college sports and broadcasting
animated TV series
|Population or audience
urban or rural
|Place and Time
|Type or Genre
compare / contrast
cause / effect
contemporary / historical
Sources: Booth, Wayne C. The Craft of Research. Fourth edition. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2016; Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper: Narrowing a Topic Idea, USC Libraries; Coming Up With Your Topic. Institute for Writing Rhetoric. Dartmouth College; Narrowing a Topic. Writing Center. University of Kansas; Narrowing Topics. Writing@CSU. Colorado State University; Strategies for Narrowing a Topic. University Libraries. Information Skills Modules. Virginia Tech University; The Process of Writing a Research Paper. Department of History. Trent University; Ways to Narrow Down a Topic. Contributing Authors. Utah State OpenCourseWare.
Sometimes you have a really great topic but have trouble finding appropriate or adequate sources. If your topic is very narrow:
In the meantime, here are some strategies for broadening the scope of your search.
|Use synonyms for your topic, connected by OR
film or cinema or movies
television news or broadcast news
cable subscribers and (hulu or apple or slingbox or antenna)
|Use the wildcard * to retrieve alternative endings of phrases
(works in most library databases; doesn't work in Google)
child* and television and literacy
(cartoon* or animat*) and series
theat* and representation* and (hispan* or latin or chican*)
Think about the larger context
(interactive gaming or video games) and gender instead of
boarding schools and YA fiction instead of
Follow the Footnote Trail
Footnotes in scholarly publications can lead the way to related research. Study them for leads.
Need help locating an item cited in a footnote? Ask us!.
You can also try our ArticleFinder for help in locating an item when you have a citation in hand.
Talk to Us
Don't abandon a topic you love without talking to a librarian for advice. We're here to help.
Sources: Booth, Wayne C. The Craft of Research. Fourth edition. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2016; Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper: Broadening a Topic, USC Libraries; Coming Up With Your Topic. Institute for Writing Rhetoric. Dartmouth College; Getting Started With Your Research: A Self-Help Guide to Quality Information, Jean and Alexander Heard Library. Vanderbilt University; Strategies for Broadening a Topic. University Libraries. Information Skills Modules. Virginia Tech University.
Image: Gordon Robinson, Alice in Wonderland, 1916, Project Gutenberg edition, 2006 https://www.gutenberg.org/files/19033/19033-h/19033-h.htm