Broadening or Narrowing a Topic
Once you have a topic, you may need to broaden or narrow your approach. The following questions will help you out:
- Can you come up with a list of subtopics that relate to your main research topic?
- How do these subtopics relate to each other and to your broader research area?
- Do these subtopics lead to new questions?
- Do these new areas of inquiry add value or detract from your main research topic?
How to Create Keywords for Your Research Topic
Coming up with a list of keywords is helpful when seeking research on your topic. To brainstorm a list of keywords, try to:
- Identify the core concepts in your research topic
- Create a list of synonyms or associated phrases that are related to your core concepts
- Consult a thesaurus if you are having difficulty
- Look at keywords that are assigned to articles (databases will often assign keywords to articles)
- Browse words in the "works cited" section of your readings to see if any relevant terms are frequently used
- Think about academic terms associated with your topic, as well as more popular words
- Go broad AND narrow
- Organize the terms based on your core concepts
Here's an example of a research question I am currently exploring and some of the keywords I am using: Did the popularity of movies impact women's suffrage?
|film||panko||votes for women|
If you are having a hard time coming up with keywords on your own, the librarians at the University of Texas created a keyword generator. Give it a try!
- Select a topic you find to be interesting. Research can be a challenging process, but it is rewarding when it connects to a topic you want to explore.
- Give yourself time and plan a research strategy! Sometimes databases go down, the book you want is missing and you need to get it from BorrowDirect, or you may have to request a crucial article from ILL and wait a few days for it to arrive. After all, you can find bargain airfare in just a few minutes of Googling, but finding relevant resources for a paper will take hours.
- Remember that searching Google and searching databases require different skills. Oodles of descriptive words can be helpful when you are trying to find something on Google, but you need to be more deliberate with the words and phrases you use in databases.
- Don't forget books! Whether they be in print or online, academic monographs and collections of essays can be vital resources for your paper. Browsing the stacks in your topic area can reveal lots of useful books. At Hopkins, you can browse the stacks in person or use a virtual browse incorporating every book owned by JHU!
- Cast your net widely! Don't limit yourself to just one database or just one bookshelf.
- Be organized with your references; sloppiness may lead to misattribution of quotes or even suggest plagiarism. The library subscribes to Refworks, a citation management system, and many academic databases include a citation feature.
- Evaluate your sources. TRAPP (see below) is one helpful evaluation method.
- When in doubt, ask a librarian!
Quick Check for your Sources: The TRAAP Method
Evaluating Sources: Social Media
The library offers you a free subscription to Refworks, an online citation management system. Refworks will help you to keep your references organized and will generate a bibliography based on your citation style preference. Library catalog records and databases will often include "export to" links that will allow you to connect the research you find with your Refworks account. Databases will also generate the citation for you in whatever reference style you need.
You will be using the MLA citation style for your paper. The library can connect you with helpful resources for citing properly!