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Information Literacy Archaeology: Defining your topic

Defining your topic

After the orientation phase (Orientation on your topic) you will have a clearer picture of the scope of your topic, for example:

  • who are the key people?
  • to which location and period does the topic relate?
  • who are the main authors?

To define your subject as clearly as possible (and to write a good essay) you need a clear research question and a clear approach or angle. This will enable you to make a selection from all the literature available on a subject. Formulating a good research question requires a great deal of thought and time. Still, it is absolutely rewarding to take your time for this part of the research process since your research question is the foundation for your research. In addition, a clear research question will also save time, becauses it enables you to tackle your research in a focused manner.

Generally, academic research results in an academic text, i.e. an article or a paper. A good text has a clear angle; the perspective from which the topic is approached. This angle helps the author to select material and to write a coherent text.

For more information on formulating a research question and deciding on an approach, go to the Academic Communication Skills portal of the University of Groningen Language Centre.

Making a search term more specific

This example shows how you can make a search term more specific:

Topic: Flint

The topic is very broad. Your search will get too many hits. So next you make the period and the location more specific:

Flint discoveries in the North of the Netherlands after 1800

The topic can be made even more specific: Flint discoveries in Borger between 1800 and 1900

Finally you make your topic even more specific: What kinds of flint have been found in and around Borger between 1800 and 1900 and what were they used for.