Sometimes a topic that seems like the right size for your paper can seem way too big after you’ve learned a little more about it. When this happens, you need to narrow the focus of your paper. You can do this by considering different ways to restrict your paper topic.
Some of the ways you can limit your paper topic are by:
For example, a paper about alcohol use would be very broad. But a paper about reasons for alcohol abuse by female college students in the United States during the 1990s might be just right.
The University of Michigan Library Learning and Teaching Team has created an online tool to help you narrow your topic. The Goldilocker tool can be used as a stand alone/personal exercise to articulate your topic in a much more narrow fashion. It can also be used in conjunction with University of Michigan courses and classes outside of the university.
Sometimes you will find that your topic is too narrow - there is not enough published on your topic. When this happens, you can try to broaden your topic. There are a couple of strategies you can try when broadening your topic.
One strategy is to choose less specific terms for your search, e.g., standardized tests instead of SATs, or performance-enhancing drugs instead of anabolic steroids.
Another strategy is to broaden your topic by changing or removing limits or filters from your topic:
For example, a paper about alcohol use by college students at the University of Michigan in 1984 might be too narrow of a focus. But a paper about alcohol use by college students in the 1980s might be just right.