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Guide to the Research Process: 1e. Refine a Topic

This guide provides an introduction to the skills needed to conduct research.


You are likely to be continuously modifying your topic throughout the research process. This depends on whether:

  • there is too much information
  • there is too little information
  • new issues arise during the research process that you need to address


Broad Topic: Methodism

Narrower Topic: How did the Methodist movement begin?


Narrow Topic: What are the fundamental beliefs of Calvinism?

Broader Topic:  Calvinist theology

Too Much Information?

If you are finding too much information, your topic may be too broad. Consider narrowing it by:

  • Time period -- 2000-2012; a selection of a few years, etc.
  • Geographic location -- City, town, etc.
  • Population -- age, race, gender, or other group
  • Smaller piece of the topic:

    • Genre
    • Event
    • Aspect
    • Discipline or Subject

Too Little Information?

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

  • Exploring related issues or additional elements
  • Identifying the wider implications of your research
  • Identifying the key players to be considered in research on your topic
  • Comparing or contrasting the topic with another topic
  • Expanding the:
    • time period covered
    • population considered
    • geographic area discussed