Narrowing a topic:
Let's say you choose to write on the social problems topic of: HOMELESSNESS. "Homelessness” is a very broad topic – that is, you can find a lot of information on this topic. So how do you go about narrowing the topic so as to avoid information overload -- finding too much information for your needs?
Narrow your research topic by developing keyword combinations which will limit the results you retrieve when searching. You do this by separating keywords or keyword phrases with connectors; that is, with AND, OR, or NOT.
*** Homeless people and mental illness (limits search results to resources about homeless people with mental health problems and issues
*** Homelessness and drug addiction and adolescents (limits search results to resources about drug abuse and homeless teenagers)
Broadening a topic:
Let’s just say you want to write a research paper on the topic, “Attitudes towards homeless people in Jackson, Tennessee” You probably won’t find much material on this; your topic is too narrow. If you really want to write about people's attitudes toward the homeless, you will have to broaden your topic.
How do you do this? Change your keywords to broaden your search and maybe obtain more information:
*** Homeless people and public opinion (the topic has been expanded to include homeless people and public opinion not just within one small group (Jackson, Tennessee), but in general.
*** Homelessness and (public opinion or public attitudes) (the researcher is looking for articles about public opinion OR public attitudes towards the homeless)