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ENGL 1157--Pettaway Fall 2023: Narrowing a Topic


Welcome! In our session today, we are going to explore some ideas about information, doing research, and make friends with the library website. I will guide you through and am happy to answer questions now and in the future. Find me at or 504-280-6548. 

Sage Advice about Narrowing a Topic

For most students, narrowing down a research topic makes a huge difference between how they carried out the research while in high school and how they should conduct their research projects in college.

Choosing a suitable research topic requires that you work from outside in. Often, you’ll start with a broader topic and narrow it down to a level where you can establish what you’d like to find out rather than only what you’d like to “write about.”

Whether you’ve been given a general topic to investigate, given several problems to study, or you need to come up with your own topic to study, you should ensure that the research problem’s scope underpinning the study isn’t too broad.

A Step-by-Step Example on Narrowing a Research Topic

To narrow down a specific topic, follow these steps:

1. Choose a general topic area.

An example could be employee turnover.

2. Give specific description of the topic area.

Example: turnover in the nursing industry

3. Mention an aspect of the specific topic:

Example: factors that affect turnover among registered nurses

To narrow down a topic’s focus, follow these steps:

4. Note down extra specifics about the topic.

Example: Workplace stress and turnover among registered nurses.

5. Turn the topic into a sentence or statement.

Example: Workplace stress has a significant impact on turnover among registered nurses.

6. Fine-tune your topic’s focus using elements such as time, place, and relationship.

Example: Workplace stress causes increased turnover among registered nurses in Brooklyn.

Once you have a narrowed topic, you can identify the key words you might use to search for information about in a library database like OneSearch or Academic Search Complete. Check the Research Worksheet for directions about how to start this process. (hint: it's on 'finding info' page.)