Skip to Main Content

Starting Your Research

A Beginning Scholar's Guide to Research Success for new students at the University of Notre Dame

Narrowing Your Topic

Narrowing a topic requires you to be more specific about your research interest and can help you to develop a thesis:

  • Who? Who is the specific person/group which you would like to focus on?
  • What? What specific aspect of the broad topic idea is interesting to you?
  • Where? Is there a specific geographic region that you'd like to learn more about relative to your topic?
  • When? On what time period would you like your research focused?
  • Why? Why do you think this is an important/interesting topic?

Turning Your Research Question into a Search Strategy

To successfully search for information on your topic, it is best to determine the main concepts and then find keywords for those concepts. The keywords can become your search words.

For example, your research question is "Does fracking cause water pollution?" 

First underline the keywords as shown. Then begin generating synonyms and related words to help you develop a search strategy.




hydraulic fracturing

underground water


drilling for natural gas



natural gas wells



directional drilling

domestic water supply

flammable water

(example adapted from University of Idaho Libraries)