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WILL Colloquium: Gender, Race and Activism: Narrowing Your Topic

Research Process - Books

Evaluating Information

How to Narrow and Focus Your Topic

Start by phrasing your subject or general topic in the form of a question.

Then ask yourself further questions about your topic:

  • What do you know about it? What don't you know?
  • What aspects or viewpoints of your topic interest you? Examples include social, legal, medical, ethical, biological, psychological, economic, political, and philosophical. A viewpoint allows you to focus on a single aspect.
  • What time period do you want to cover?
  • What place or geographic region do you want to cover? Examples include national, international, local social norms & values, economic & political systems, or languages.
  • What population do you want to cover? Examples include gender, age, occupation, ethnicity, nationality, educational attainment, species, etc.
  • What is the history of your topic?  How did it originate? How has it changed?
  • How does your topic fit into a larger system or structure?
     
  • How can you join the scholarly conversation on this topic?
     
  • Next, look for resources which provide background information. Some selected general and specialized subject sources can help narrow the topic.
     
  • Remember, there are two layers of research:
    1) a broad search to discover resources and to read some background information
    2) specific searches for information once you've focused your topic.
     

Link to Narrowing Your Topic: 5 Quick Tips

Literature Review Hints

Hints on Conducting a Literature Review

 

What is a review of the literature?

A literature review is an account of what has been published on a topic by accredited scholars and researchers. It is often a part of the introduction to an essay, research report, or thesis. In writing the literature review, your purpose is to convey to your reader what knowledge and ideas have been established on a topic, and what their strengths and weaknesses are. As a piece of writing, the literature review must be defined by your research question. Besides enlarging your knowledge about the topic, writing a literature review lets you gain and demonstrate skills in two areas

  1. information seeking: the ability to scan the literature efficiently, using manual or computerized methods, to identify a set of useful articles and books
  2. critical evaluation: the ability to apply principles of analysis to identify unbiased and valid studies.

A literature review must do these things

  1. be organized around and related directly to the research question you are developing
  2. synthesize results into a summary of what is and is not known
  3. identify areas of controversy in the literature
  4. formulate questions that need further research

Ask yourself questions like these:

  1. What is the specific focus or research question that my literature review helps to define?
  2. What type of literature review am I conducting? Am I looking at issues of theory? methodology? policy?
  3. What is the scope of my literature review? What types of publications am I using (e.g., journals, books, government documents, popular media)? What discipline am I working in (e.g., leadership, sociology, medicine)?
  4. How good was my information seeking? Has my search been wide enough to ensure I've found all the relevant material? Has it been narrow enough to exclude irrelevant material? Is the number of sources I've used appropriate for the length of my paper?
  5. Have I critically analyzed the literature I use? Do I follow through a set of concepts and questions, comparing items to each other in the ways they deal with them? Instead of just listing and summarizing items, do I assess them, discussing strengths and weaknesses?
  6. Have I cited and discussed studies contrary to my perspective?
  7. Will the reader find my literature review relevant, appropriate, and useful?

Getting Started:
Connect to
http://libguides.richmond.edu/leadership

Acknowledgements:
http://www.writing.utoronto.ca/advice/specific-types-of-writing/literature-review
The Literature Review: A Few Tips On Conducting  It

 

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Lucretia McCulley

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