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SOAD F340 History of Fashion

IUCAT Search

IUCAT is the IUB Libraries catalog. Find books, journals, music, and more!

Ways to access IUCAT:  

Selecting and Narrowing a Topic

Choose an area of interest to explore. 

For you to successfully finish a research project, it is important to choose a research topic that is relevant to your field of study and piques your curiosity. The flip side is that curiosity can take you down long and winding paths, so you also need to consider scope in how to effectively cover the topic in the space that you have available. If there's an idea or concept you've recently learned that's stuck with you, that might be a good place to start!

Gather background information.

You may not know right away what your research question is - that's okay! Start out with a broad topic, and see what information is out there through cursory background research. This will help you explore possibilities and narrow your topic to something manageable.  Do a few quick searches in OneSearch@IU or in other relevant sources. See what other researchers have already written to help narrow your focus. 

Narrow your topic.

 Once you have a sense of how other researchers are talking about the topics you’re interested, narrow down your topic by asking the 5 Ws

  • Who – population or group (e.g., working class, college students, Native Americans)
  • What – discipline or focus (e.g., anthropological or art history)
  • Where – geographic location (e.g., United States; universities; small towns; Standing Rock)
  • When – time period or era (17th century; contemporary; 2017)
  • Why – why is the topic important? (to the class, to the field, or to you)

Broad topic: Native American representations in museums

Narrowed topic: Museum efforts to adhere to NAGPRA

Adapted from: University of Michigan. (2023 Finding and Exploring your topic. Retrieved from