Answered By: Research Librarian
Last Updated: Aug 24, 2018     Views: 32

Discover a Focused Topic

  • Make sure your topic meets the assignment requirements. If you are unsure, ask your professor for feedback;
  • Choose a topic that is interesting to you;
  • Choose a topic that others have written about in order to find enough resources;
  • Consider the scope of your topic. Is it too broad or too narrow?

Improve Your Keywords

If your search is not focused, you will not find good results. You do not need to write out a complete sentence. Searches work best if you connect keywords and short phrases. Link together related words with AND.

  • Not focused: Do university students in Geneseo, New York reflect the demographics of the surrounding area?
  • Better: Students AND diversity AND universities AND New York 

If your search is too broad, there will be too many unrelated results. More specific keywords will find better results. Try to think of a specific group, age, or industry.

  • Too broad: Diversity in education
  • Better: Diversity AND universities AND history

If your search is too narrow, there will not be enough results. Less specific keywords will find more results.

  • Too narrow: History of diversity in private universities in New York 
  • Better: History AND diversity AND universities AND New York

Strategies for an Effective Research Question

  • Background research will help you learn more about your topic, find keywords, and refine your research question. 
    Brainstorm related concepts and keywords. For example, if your topic is "polar bears,"  write down synonymous words or related topics: ice, cubs, global warming, hunting, diet, and "environmental icon."
  • Limit your scope to manage your research. If you use a historical angle, then focus on a particular time period; for a geographical angle, focus on a particular part of the world; or a sociological angle, focus on a particular group of people.
  • Start exploratory, in-depth research. As you start in-depth research, look for scholarly articles and books, then refine your topic based on what you find. Research is a dynamic process!

Develop Your Topic

The topic development process follows your research from the beginning of picking your topic through doing your research:

  1. Pick a topic: education, leadership, diversity, demographics
  2. Do some background research on your topic
  3. Improve your topic based on your early research: How have current trends shaped diversity in universities in the United States?
  4. Do in-depth research on your topic
  5. Create a thesis: Current trends in education and demographics have greatly influenced leadership diversity in universities in the United States. 

Resources that  help with topic development

  • Talk to your instructor or a librarian.
  • Read your course readings and class notes for ideas.
  • Wikipedia and Google provide background material, but not necessarily reliable information.
  • Subject Guides, created by Milne's librarians, identify subject encyclopedias, books, databases, and other scholarly materials.
  • Subject encyclopedias provide scholarly entries, overviews, and background information.