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HDFS 200: Individual and Family Development

Use this guide to locate resources for HDFS 200 (Individual & Family Development)

Narrow your topic

Narrowing a topic requires you to be more specific about your research interest and can help you to develop a thesis.

Questions to Narrow Your Topic

  • Who? Who is the specific person/group to which you would like to limit your research?
  • What? What specific aspect of the broad topic idea is interesting to you?
  • Where? To which specific geographic area or region would you like to limit your research?
  • When? On what time period would you like your research focused?
  • Why? Why do you think this is an important/interesting topic?

What is a Thesis Statement?

A thesis is typically a one sentence statement in the first paragraph, or beginning, of your project that states your purpose. Thesis statements should be arguable, specific, detailed, and meaningful.

For example:  How does parenting style affect adolescent development of independence?

Brainstorm keywords

Before you look for articles, you should determine what your topic is and identify keywords and phrases.

State your topic as a question: How does parenting style affect adolescent development of independence?

  • identify the keywords/phrases: "parenting style"  "adolescent development"  independence
  • brainstorm for synonyms for the concepts: 

Example alternative vocabulary for key words

For Example
Parenting Style
:  Democratic parenting, permissive parenting or authoritarian parenting

Adolescent Development:  Physical development, cognitive development, or social/emotional development

Independence:  Autonomy, self-sufficiency, competence

Once you have identified keywords and phrases and synonyms, you are ready to formulate searches.

For example, for the topic "How does parenting style affect adolescent development of independence?" you might search for:

"parenting style" AND "Adolescent development" AND independence

If you don't find anything with that search, then you may want to think of adding some synonyms to your search:

"authoritarian parent*" AND "social development" AND (autonomy OR competence)


  • The asterisk "*" tells the databases you will take forms of the word: Parent* = parent, parents, parenting
  • The parentheses "( )" tell the database you will take the word autonomy , the word competence, or both words

Types of Searches

Broad Search
Search for information using the single most important term related to your topic. Use this type of search when looking for basic background information.

For example: "adolescent development" - the quotation marks tell the database to look for the phrase

Specific Search
Search for information by combining key words/phrases using the words you have brainstormed. Each phrase/word should be separated by the word "AND". Use this kind of search when looking for specific evidence related to your topic.

For example:  "parenting style"  AND "adolescent development" AND independence

Not getting the results you expected?

  • Did you get too many results?  Add more search terms
  • Did you get too few results?  change or remove some of your search terms.
  • Still having problems?  Make an appointment with the Education Librarian