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Guide to the Research Process: 1e. Refine a Topic

This guide provides an introduction to the skills needed to conduct research, with particular reference to the field of education.

Tip!

You are likely to be continuously modifying your topic throughout the research process. This depends on whether:

  • there is too much information
  • there is too little information
  • new issues arise during the research process that you need to address

Examples

Broad Topic: Indiscipline and violence in schools

Narrower Topic: What are the causes of indiscipline and violence among secondary school students in Trinidad and Tobago?

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Narrow Topic: What are the strategies used by schools to meet the needs of autistic children?

Broader Topic: What are the strategies implemented by the Ministry of Education to provide educational services to special needs students?

Too Much Information?

If you are finding too much information, your topic may be too broad. Consider narrowing it by:

  • Time period -- 2000-2012; pre-Independence, etc.
  • Geographic location -- St. George East, Tobago, Victoria, etc.
  • Population -- age, race, gender, or other group
  • Smaller piece of the topic:

    • Genre -- fiction
    • Event -- 1990 attempted coup
    • Aspect -- Causes of school indiscipline
    • Discipline or Subject -- chemistry education

Too Little Information?

If you are not finding enough information, your topic may be too narrow. Consider broadening it by:

  • Exploring related issues or additional elements
  • Identifying the wider implications of your research
  • Identifying the key players to be considered in research on your topic
  • Comparing or contrasting the topic with another topic
  • Expanding the:
    • time period covered
    • population considered
    • geographic area discussed