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Broadening Topics
What could go wrong?
You are likely to run into a number of problems if your topic is too narrow:
  • You don't find enough information and what you do find is irrelevant
  • You find information that is so specific that it can't lead to any significant conclusions
  • Your sources cover so few ideas that you can't expand them into a significant paper
  • Your research will either be extremely difficult to complete or of poor quality - or both!
How to fix it:
To broaden a topic replace its central concepts with more general concepts. If you don't know enough about the topic to identify its central concepts, you may want to check some background resources.
(This section is adapted from part 3 of Duke University's Guide to Library Research)
How to fix it: an example
Too-narrow topic: "The economic failure of the Bates Mill in Lewiston, Maine during the mid 20th century"
Broaden a narrow topic by asking about more general concepts: Can my issues or events be classified with similar issues or events? Can my time or place be extended?
Narrow concept
» more general concept » most general concept
  Economic failure
» Economic history » History
  Bates Mill
» Water-powered fabric mills » Fabric mills
  Lewiston
» Maine » New England
  Mid-20th century
» 20th century » No specified time period
Broader topic:
The history of fabric mills in New England
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