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Research 101

Understanding Your Assignment

Focusing Your Research

More tips

Choose a topic you find interesting and a question about it that you don't already have the answer to. Don't make the rookie mistake of dreaming up what you'll write first, then looking for someone who agrees with you! 

Research is about asking questions, learning new things, making sense of varied and sometimes contradictory information, and asking new questions. 

Understanding these steps in the research process can help you take charge of your research:

  • Consider your topic's scope : how broad or narrow is it? If it's too broad, you may find lots of sources but they may not work together well, because there are so many sub-topics. If your topic is too narrow, it may be hard to find information at all.  
  • Focus your topic and develop a research question by brainstorming (actually write it out!):
    • What do you already know about the topic?
    • What more do you want to find out? 
  • Develop keywords to start your searches, and do some background research - especially when a topic is new to you.
  • Reference articles, news publications, and book introductions can help you learn more about your topic. See the big picture and  what sub-topics exist to refine your focus.

As you read each source, your understanding of the topic and questions about it will change - this is normal! 

Research is a dynamic process. Be prepared to modify or refine your topic. 

You can always contact your professor (take advantage of their office hours!) and Hostos librarians for more help in developing your topic and research question. 

Using Effective Keywords

Too Many Results

  • Tighten your focus - your subject might be too broad
    • For more tips, please watch the Focusing Your Research video.
  • Try keywords that are more specific.
  • Try more keywords. 
    • A search for baseball will have more results than a search for baseball Yankees Jeter.
    • Adding keywords will make your search more specific.
  • Add filters, such as date and format.   

Too Few Results

  • Broaden your focus, if your topic is already very specific.
  • Try keywords that are more general.
  • Try synonyms to your first keywords.
  • Try fewer keywords.
    • A search for diabetes women Dominican elderly insulin therapy will have fewer results than a search for diabetes.
    • Removing search terms will make your search more general.
  • Remove filters, such as date and format.
  • Try searching in a database that specializes in a certain subject.
    • You can look in discipline-specific databases! Please visit A - Z Databases and filter by subject using the first drop-down menu.