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Engineering Library Guide

Select a Topic

Selecting a topic is one of the first steps of research, and it is also part of the research! It's ok if your topic is broad at first. Watch the following video for more guidance on this process.

Video Transcript

Scoping Your Topic

When starting a research project it is very likely that your first idea or topic for research will be a broad one. This is completely normal, but we need to narrow down our focus so that we don't get lost in the mountains of research that you will find when searching broadly. 

Lets start with a broad topic and work our way down to one that's manageable. You're interested in understanding more about the design of cars. This topic could take you in many different directions. If you were to search for "Cars" and "Design" in the database Web of Science, you'd get 33,077 results. This is far too many results to parse through, so we need to narrow down. This narrowing down is called scoping.




A good strategy to begin scoping your topic is to think about what you already know, and what you want to explore further. I know that fuel efficiency is a major consideration when designing a new vehicle but that is about all I know, so it would be a good idea to dig deeper here and learn more. I also know that aerodynamics are an important consideration, but how much research is out there on consumer vehicle aerodynamics?

Adding keywords and phrases like "fuel efficiency" or "aerodynamics" start to get you down to result counts that become manageable, 571 and 232 respectively. If you decide you want to look more into the aerodynamics of car design, you should do some digging into the articles in your search, and then start asking yourself more questions about what you know and what you want to know.

This is just the beginning of scoping your topic. As you learn more and gather background information you will continue to refine your topic. To get more help with scoping your specific topic please contact the UH Libraries Teaching & Learning librarians.