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Getting Started: Information Research Tips

Introductory help in learning how to identify, locate, evaluate, and use information effectively and ethically for research assignments.

Broadening a Topic

If your topic is too specific or specialized or new, it will be difficult finding enough information to write your paper. In that case, you will need to broaden your idea.

Example: I'm thinking of doing a paper on "whether genetically altered soybeans are safe for consumers."

This topic as stated is seeking to answer a question for which there may be no answer yet -- more scientific and long-term research may need to be done. How can this be turned into a more manageable topic?

Hint 1: Look for parallels and opportunities for broader associations:

  • Could you examine other bioengineered foods, in addition to soybeans?
  • Could you think broadly about safety concerns and issues -- what might these be?
  • Who are the key players in this controversy? Consumer activists? The FDA? Scientists?
  • What other issues are involved in this topic? Such as, how should be foods be labeled?

Hint 2: Brainstorm! (and ask a reference librarian!)

Sample Topic Broadening Chart:

Specific Topic Are genetically altered soybeans safe for consumers?
Alternate Focus bioengineered or genetically altered foods
Alternate Place general: US, Europe
Brainstorm Focus on: Person or Group consumer advocates vs FDA and scientists
Brainstorm Focus on:
Event or Aspect
labeling foods; regulation