Many researchers find this to be one of the toughest parts of research. Often a researcher’s initial topic may be too broad or general. Concept Mapping is a graphic method of “mapping” out a complex topic and its different facets. Think of an image of a wheel with several spokes coming from a central hub. Place your main topic in the hub. Think about the different issues or aspects of your topic, and write one aspect or issue at the end of each spoke. This exercise can help you select which issues or aspects you address within your report.
You can also do some initial research on your topic to understand what issues or challenges are wrapped up in your topic. This initial review of information can help you decide on which direction to take your topic, and also help you select useful search terms.
Conduct Background Research: Search for news articles, top hits on Google, and encyclopedia articles.
Google Tips and Tricks:
You can limit Google searches to particular files such as PDFs, PowerPoints, etc. This can be helpful when looking for reports, particularly by professional associations, organizations, and governments.
Type in Google your search terms + filetype:ppt. Example search: nanotechnology market filetype:pdf
You can also limit results to sites with specific domains, such as .org, .edu, .mil, or .gov.
Type in Google your search terms + site:.edu. Example search: nanotechnology market site:.gov
When you search Google.com, you are searching the U.S.'s version of Google. If you know the top-level country code domain for other countries, you can search their version of Google.com. Keep in mind that this will not necessarily change the language of the results you see, but will show you results Google thinks are more relevant to those in that country. This can be helpful when doing international research.
Example: Go to Google.de (Germany's version). Search for government privacy.