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1. Defining Your Topic

Novice researchers often have trouble because their research topics are either too broad, too specific, or lacking context. Here are some “pre-research” tips:

Write your topic as a specific question.
Research should generally be a journey of discovery, not an attempt to locate a predetermined answer. Writing out your research topic as a specific question may help to focus your information search. For example, your general topic may be home care. One specific research question you could ask is “How has home care for the elderly in Canada changed over the past twenty years?” It is okay if this question evolves or changes as your research progresses. Consult your professor about the questions you need to ask for your particular assignment.
Recognize the subjects covered by your research question.
Information in libraries and library databases is usually organized according to broad subjects. These broad subjects often correspond to university departments or faculties (e.g., Sociology, Nursing, etc.). However, subjects are interrelated, so you should not limit yourself to just one section of the library, its website, or one library database. Our home care question relates to several subjects, including nursing, history, sociology, and gerontology.
Get some background information.
A basic understanding of your topic will help you with your search. You may also find additional aspects of your topic that you would like to investigate, or words related to your topic that you will be able to use as keywords in your search. Your textbook may provide some background. You may also need to consult a reference source, as explained in Section 2 (Understanding Academic Literature).