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ENG 111 & 112 Course Playbook

This playbook contains resources and information for ENG 112 students and faculty.

Narrowing Your Topic

  • Narrowing a topic means making it more specific. When you narrow your topic, searching for sources is easier and more effective.

Cats --- Cat diseases --- Feline leukemia --- Treatments for feline leukemia

  • Practice: Try to narrow these topics on your own:

Weather --- winter weather -- snow --- snow sports -- skiing

Cars -- Sports cars -- Italian sports cars -- Ferrari -- Ferrari features

  • Narrowing a topic helps you identify terms to use for searching

Topic: Treatments for feline leukemia

Search terms:  "feline leukemia" AND treatments

  • Practice: Which of the topics below is the narrowest? Which is the broadest?
    • Mars exploration
    • space exploration
    • cost vs. benefits of exploring Mars


To learn more about how to narrow a topic, including strategies for doing so, watch the video below.

ResearchMinute Video: Narrowing Topics

Watch this ResearchMinute video to learn how to narrow topics. 

Narrowing a Topic with Concept Mapping

  • Concept mapping (also called "mind mapping") can help you narrow down a topic by brainstorming topic-related terms and ideas and connecting them.
  • A concept map helps you organize information visually by showing you how these concepts and ideas may be related.
  • These concepts and ideas are represented by keywords, and their relationships are shown by arrows or lines.
  • In the example below, we start with the broad topic "chocolate," and by concept mapping we narrow it down to "adding dark chocolate to the diet may help protect heart health." 
  • The narrowed topic will help us search databases using the terms "dark chocolate" and "heart health," and related ones (for example, "HDL").


example of a concept map

Narrowing Topics Practice