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How Broad or Narrow Is My Topic?
To know how specific or broad your topic is, it can be helpful to think about a topic in terms of where it fits along the spectrum of:
Academic Discipline – Subject – Topic - Aspect of Topic .
>>Remember that the broader the topic, the more information will be returned in a search, while a subject that is too narrow might not return enough sources for your research.
>>Sometimes it can help to brainstorm the topic for vocabulary, to find search terms and to put them in the order of the spectrum above to understand when you can broaden or narrow it as you search for information.
If you aren't familiar with your topic, you might need to get some background information on it.
>>You can look at traditional, print resources like dictionaries, encyclopedias, subject guides for brief overviews of the topic, or you can look through your class reading.
>>This would also be the stage that you could use a search engine, like Google or Bing to look for information on websites or Wikipedia, though you wouldn't be looking for articles to cite in a paper yet, just useful vocabulary, general concepts and links to official sources.
>>Don't forget to look at the Pathfinders on the Central Campus Library web page, under Guides and Help. It has lists of topics to choose from, with a brief definition, key words, research questions and available print and electronic resources listed for each.
It's often useful to frame your topic as a question to help identify what part of it you want to pursue in the research and then writing about it.
>>When you begin to answer the question, it can help you think about the kind of resources you will need for research, and if the question is more or less easily researchable.
>>Also, the answer to the question can serve as the basis of a paper's thesis, while the more specific aspects can provide topic sentences for paragraphs of the body of your paper.
>>Remember that you can see research questions for many topics in the Pathfinders under Guides and Help on the Central Campus Library Web Page at ucl.broward.edu.
The question of what information you will need breaks down into two parts:
>>First, what kinds of documents will have the information you are looking for? Depending on your topic, these can include journal, magazine and newspaper articles, books, government statistics and reports, economic reports, case studies, and company and country reports.
>>Second, what sources will have those types of documents? The sources listed to the left in the table below have the types of documents listed to the right:
|Source||Types of Documents|
|Databases on ucl.broward.edu||Journal, Magazine & Newspaper Articles|
|Business Databases on ucl.broward.edu||Case Studies, Company & Country Reports|
|UCL/BCL Catalog||Books, Government Documents|
|Reference Section/Information Desk||Statistical Abstracts & Country reports|