Section 1 Choosing and focusing a topic > Creating and refining a research question > Review

Strategies for refining a question

If when you search for material on your topic you are overwhelmed by a tsunami of sources on the question you've raised, it is probably too broad

Ask yourself what areas you would need to cover to develop it fully. If you cannot do justice to each area without writing a substantially longer paper, then you need to narrow your question.  

If, on the other hand, a search yields little more than a dribble of information on your topic and it cannot be subdivided readily, then you probably need to broaden your question.

If your question is too broad, limit your focus by time period, group, or place.

Broad Narrower
What events affected the American Labor Movement in the early twentieth century? What strengthened the American Labor Movement in the 1930s
Why are increasing numbers of Americans overweight? Why are increasing numbers of American children overweight?
What is being done about the problem of AIDS in Africa? What is being done in Uganda to educate the population about AIDS?

Another strategy for narrowing a topic is to reduce the number of subjects to research.

Broad Narrower
What themes are treated in Emily Dickinson's poetry?  How does Dickinson treat death in "Because I Could Not Stop for Death"?
What causes eating disorders? How do societal attitudes cause bulimia?
How do athletes cope with anxiety stemming from fear of injury or defeat?                How do athletes overcome their fear of injury?

In general, broaden a search by doing the reverse of what you would do to narrow one. See the examples above for ways to narrow a topic.

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