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The Research Process :: Step by Step

Use Wikipedia in your academic research to help you choose a topic, gather background information, refine your topic, locate keyterms to narrow or broaden your search, and locate credible sources. 

Is Your Topic Too Narrow?

If you are not finding enough information, your topic may be too narrow. Consider broadening it by:

  • Exploring related issues
  • Comparing or contrasting the topic with another topic
  • Choosing an alternative topic that is not so recent -- it may not be covered in books and journal articles yet
  • Considering the time period covered
  • Broadening the population considered
  • Expanding the geographic area discussed
  • Choosing an alternative topic that is not so popular -- it may be covered in popular magazines and tabloids only

Is Your Topic too Broad?

Narrowing a topic requires you to be more specific about your research interest and can help you to develop a thesis.

Questions to Narrow Your Topic

  • Who? Who is the specific person/group to which you would like to limit your research?
  • What? What specific aspect of the broad topic idea is interesting to you?
  • Where? To which specific geographic area or region would you like to limit your research?
  • When? On what time period would you like your research focused?
  • Why? Why do you think this is an important/interesting topic?

What is a Thesis Statement?

A thesis is typically a one sentence statement in the first paragraph, or beginning, of your project that states your purpose. Thesis statements should be arguable, specific, detailed, and meaningful.

Additional resources for help in developing a thesis statement:

Developing a strong thesis statement - Purdue OWL

Developing a thesis - Harvard College Writing Center

Examples

Broad Topic: Global warming

Narrower Topic: How will climate change impact sea levels and the coastal United States?

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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?

Helpful Handout :: Narrowing Your Topic

This handout illustrates how a research question develops from a broad topic to a focused question.