Sometimes research interests take us to very narrow places.  Unfortunately, topics that are too narrow may not have enough out there to support what you want to write about.  Here are some questions that can help you think about ways to expand your topic:

Can you replace any of your specific concepts with more general concepts?
For example, if you are thinking about writing about how Facebook impacts sleep deprivation, you might expand Facebook to consider social media more generally.  If there's not enough about sleep deprivation and social media, you might expand social media even further to include screen time.

Can you broaden your topic to include other related issues?
For example, if you are exploring how age is a factor in when looking at the longevity of a relationship, you might look at the broader literature on factors that contribute to a long-lasting relationship.

Can you broaden your topic by including a larger geographic range? 
Very local topics can be really interesting but it can be difficult to find information specific to a region.  For example, if you are searching about the amount of funding on athletics on your campus, consider also looking into national trends that might be relevant to what you are trying to say about your campus.

Who are the people involved?  
Thinking about who else might be interested in this topic or mentioned in the research can also help you broaden.

For example, if you are writing about political scandals related to social networking use, you might choose someone particular to look into, such as Anthony Weiner.  His story can help illustrate and expand your original topic.

By Snapchat, Inc. (
[Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons

Databases have tools called facets that can help you expand searches as well.

Are the facets set to default?

All of the databases have facets that will help you to broaden (or narrow) your search. Try broadening your search by adjusting the facets on the left side of the page. Start with expanding the date range and types of sources.


You can also change the search options at the top of the page. Using "Select a Field" will include any articles with your keywords. 


How do I broaden my search?

Your keywords might be too specific. Think about generalized terms you could use to define your topic. You can use the subject list to help with expanding your search terms. To find the subject list, click the title of an article. 


Are you in a subject database?

For some topics, a subject database will find more results than more general databases, like Academic Search Premier. If you are using Academic Search Premier, go to the subject page. There are two ways you can browse the subject page: choose a subject that best fits your needs or use the alphabet search to find a specific database. 

Let's say you are writing a paper on successful marriages and traits. A search in Academic Search Premier will only find eleven results. 


But a search in PsychINFO will find fifty-two results. 


What if I still can't find sources?

Keep researching! You might need to adjust your topic or think about other keywords. If you have questions about searching, schedule an appointment with a research librarian. 

Still need help?  Ask us.