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Information Sources: Choosing and Finding the Right Source

How to Choose a Topic

  • Are you interested in this topic?  

    • Find a topic you care about. This will make your work easier and more enjoyable.
  • Make sure your topic is neither too narrow nor too broad in scope.
    • Too broad?  If your topic is too broad, you will be overwhelmed with information and unable to focus.  
    • Too narrow?  If your topic is too narrow, you will have trouble finding research to support your ideas.


Tips on picking a topic

From Picking Your Topic IS Research [Video], by the North Carolina State University Library, 2013, YouTube (

Not finding enough information?

If you are not finding enough information...
  • your topic may be too narrow or specific.  For example, if your topic is obesity in children in New Bedford, Massachusetts consider changing it to childhood obesity in urban areas.  
  • your topic may be too new.  If it is a very current news event, and you need peer-reviewed articles, there has not been enough time for the research and publication to occur.  
  • you may need to search a different database.  Some databases cover many topics, some cover a single specific topic, such as psychology.
  • you may need to try different keywords in your search.  Use synonyms or related terms.e.g. teenager OR adolescent.  Find keywords by reading background material or related articles and noting the terms used in these materials.  

One Perfect Source?

From One Perfect Source? [Video], by the North Carolina State University Library, 2014, YouTube (

Too much information?

Here are some ways to narrow your topic.  Limit your topic to:
  • a specific population group, such as pre-schoolers or Asian-Americans.
  • a specific historical period or time span, such as the 1960's or the Renaissance.
  • a specific geographical location, such as the United States or China.
  • a related aspect, such as the legal, economic, educational aspect, etc.