EDUC 294A: Thesis Seminar-PLI

How to Narrow Your Topic

"I'm writing a paper on World War II." 

Often students start their research with a very general topic, even though they may realize the topic is too large to deal with in a 10-15 page paper.  Faculty and librarians tell them, "You have to narrow this down."  But how do you narrow a topic?

Thought experiments to try:

  • Think about your topic from the disciplinary perspective.  If you are in a sociology class, ask a sociological question about World War II, like "How did WWII affect women?"  If it's a political science class, your question might be something like "How did WWII affect presidential elections in the US?"
  • Think about subsets or aspects of your topic.  Some good aspects are:
    • by place, such as a country or region
    • by time period, such as a century, decade or year 
    • by population, such as men, women, ethnic group, youth, children or elderly

You can combine these ideas, "What were the major impacts of WWII on women in France, in the decade after the war?"

Take a look at our brief tutorial on topic selection and narrowing. (Slides 5-9 of the tutorial deal with topic narrowing.)

Key Education Topics

To discover resources on the following top education topics, use the databases indicated. 

Educational Administration
  ERIC
  Ed Index
  Business Source Complete
  CQ Researcher
  EconLit

Educational Psychology
  PsycInfo
  ERIC
  Ed Index
  APA eBooks and PsycTests
  Counseling Transcripts and Videos
  PsycCritiques

Children
  ERIC
  Ed Index
  PsycInfo
  Family and Society Studies
  Sociological Abstracts
  Social Services Abstracts
  Social Work Abstracts 

Families and Parenting
  ERIC
  Family and Society Studies
  PsycInfo
  Sociological Abstracts
  Social Services Abstracts
  Social Work Abstracts

Higher Education
  ERIC
  Ed Index
  CQ Researcher
  Chronicle of Higher Education

History of Education
  ERIC
  Ed Index
  America: History and Life
  CQ Researcher

News sources for Education
  Chronicle of Higher Education
  CQ Researcher
  Education Week
  More News Sources

Sociology of Education
  ERIC
  Ed Index
  Family and Society Studies
  PsycInfo
  Sociological Abstracts
  Social Services Abstracts
  Social Work Abstracts

Urban education
  ERIC
  Ed Index
  Urban Studies
  CQ Researcher

Education Literature Intro

Top Databases.

The UC Libraries provide several index/databases for searching literature in education.  The primary education databases are ERIC and Education Index.  Click the tabs above to find specific search tips for doing research with each database.  Also, find several related psychology, social science and language/literacy databases under the "More Databases" or "Psychology" tabs above.   Several of the related databases, such as PsycInfo, are searchable simultaneously with ERIC on the ProQuest platform.

ERIC and Ed Index all search for scholarly journal articles in education.  There is some overlap between them with respect to journal coverage; however, each indexes some journal titles not covered by the others. 

In addition, ERIC indexes Documents (known as "ERIC Documents") from hundreds of organizations producing education-related material. Document types include books, research syntheses, conference papers, technical reports, policy papers, and school district documents. Organizations providing non-journal content to ERIC include research foundations, federal and state agencies, policy organizations, university affiliates, and commercial publishers. 

Where to Find ERIC and Ed Index.

All the primary education databases -  ERIC. Ed Index and PsycInfo are linked from the EDP Library's homepage.

How Do I Make an Appointment?

Research and writing can very specific and a single in-class library presentation may not provide you with all the information you need.  You are more than welcome to contact a Librarian.   Feel free to schedule an appointment via the EDP Research Advisory Service
to ask a question, set up an appointment, or get more help with anything related to the Library and research.  You can also use the 24/7 Reference service.

Last Update: October 29, 2013 12:48