George Mason University

 

If your topic is too broad, you will find too much information and will need to narrow your focus. If your topic is too narrow, too specific, too specialized or too new, you will have difficulty finding enough information and will need to broaden your focus. How? Try the formula traditionally used by journalists: Who? What? Where? When? Why?

Who is involved?
A particular age group, occupation, ethnic group, men, women, etc.
Example: violence in elementary schools

What is the problem?
Identify the key issue facing the "who" in your topic.
Example: What measures can be taken by educators to prevent violence in elementary schools?

Where is this happening?
A specific country, province, city, rural vs. urban environment, physical environment, etc.
Example: violence in elementary schools in California

When is this happening?
Is this a current issue or an historical event? Will you want to discuss the historical development of a current problem?
Example: violence in elementary schools in California over the past 10 years

Why is this happening? Why is this problematic?
Focus on the suggested causes of the problem or issue, or,
Outline the topic's historical or current ramifications.

Topic too narrow?
Think of "analogous" or similar elements that could be added
Example: measures to prevent violence in California elementary schools compared or contrasted with Florida elementary schools

Need help? Just ask! Librarians or reference desk staff can assist you.
Adapted from: http://library.webster.edu/wbt/t-w1-03.html