General To Specific

Sometimes you start with very specific questions and you're ready to go:

  • Has there ever been an earthquake in Austin?
  • Who invented Velcro?
  • When was the War of 1812?

However, often you only have a general topic for a project. Research is almost impossible because you find too much information.

Narrow your topic down from a general idea to one that is specific and managable.

In the examples below, the more specific search yielded a more manageable amount of information.

This shows the importance of selecting good keywords that describe your topic. They are the most important part of successful online research. (More on that in the next section.)



Go from the general to the specific:

  • Animal behavior --- Migration of birds
  • Education reform --- Mandatory competency exams for teachers
  • AIDS --- Current drug treatments for AIDS patients

But don't get too specific:

  • Top ten ways to train a dog to roll over.

Often your topic will evolve and get more specific as you do the research.

Expect your topic to evolve as you do your research.

Similarly, you should start with general research sources and work toward ones with specific information.

For example, start with an encyclopedia to get a broad overview, then go to a magazine article on a particular part of the topic.