Students often remark that it is sometimes more difficult to find a lot of information in databases. Databases ARE smaller than the the entire world of web information, but the results will likely be more relevant and relaible.
But you need to learn how each database interface works. And you'll need to learn how to broaden or narrow your focus.
How to Narrow A Topic
Ask Yourself Questions About Your Topic:
- What do you know about it? What don't you know?
- What aspects of your topic interest you: historical, sociological, psychological, etc.?
- What time period do you want to cover?
- On what geographic region do you want to focus?
- What kind of information do you need?
- A brief summary or a lengthy explanation?
- Periodical articles, books, essays, encyclopedia articles?
Example: I'm thinking of doing a paper on an environmental subject. This topic could develop in many different ways.
|General Topic:||the environment|
|Time span:||1960s to the present|
|Place:||oceans, Los Angeles|
|Person or group:||organizations working on the issues|
|Event or Aspects:||behavior; sociological; changes|
How to Broaden Your Topic
Example: I'm doing a paper about a particular artist who graduated from Otis
This topic as stated may not have many many articles yet written about it. How can this be turned into a more manageable topic?
Look for broader associations:
- Could you examine a movement or type of art the artist is associated with?
- Could you think broadly about the success of art school graduates -- what might these be?
- What other issues are involved in this topic? Such as, artists as teachers.
|Specific Topic:||Robert Glover, ceramics artist|
|Alternate focus:||Ceramics artists|
|California, the U.S.|
Focus on a Person or Group:
|Post WWI art movement, ceramics programs in a specific college, California artists, ceramics in terms of crafts vs. fine arts|
|Focus on an Event or Aspect:||Getty Pacific Standard Time initiative, an exhibition about "Clay in L.A.:|
And there's always this option: Ask a reference librarian!