It is important to adopt a flexible approach when choosing a topic to investigate. The goal when writing any paper is to choose a research problem that is focused and time-limited. However, your starting point should not be so narrowly defined that you unnecessarily constrict your opportunity to investigate the topic thoroughly. A research problem that is too narrowly defined leads to any of the following problems:
Ravitch, Sharon M. and Matthew Riggan. Reason and Rigor: How Conceptual Frameworks Guide Research. Los Angeles, CA: SAGE, 2017.
In general, an indication that a research problem is too narrowly defined is that you can't find any relevant or meaningful information about it. If this happens, don't immediately abandon your efforts to investigate the problem because it could very well be an excellent topic of study. A good way to begin is to look for parallels and opportunities for broader associations that apply to the initial research problem. A strategy for doing this is to ask yourself the basic six questions of who, what, where, when, how, and why.
Here is an example of how to apply the six questions strategy to broadening your topic. Let's use the research topic of how to investigate ways to improve trade relations between Peru and Bolivia as an example. Ask yourself:
Reflecting upon these six questions during your initial review of the literature can help you formulate ways to expand the parameters of your initial research problem, providing an opportunity to identify new avenues of investigation and centering your study around gaps in the literature when answers to questions cannot be found. Once you've identified additional directions in which to proceed with your topic, you can try narrowing it down again, if needed.
NOTE: Do not determine on your own that a research problem is too narrowly defined. Always consult with a librarian before making this assumption because librarians are experts in finding information and interpreting it in relation to a research problem. As such, they can help guide you to undiscovered research or suggest ways to design a broader analysis of your research problem using resources you did not even know existed.
Booth, Wayne C. The Craft of Research. Fourth edition. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2016; Coming Up With Your Topic. Institute for Writing Rhetoric. Dartmouth College; Getting Started With Your Research: A Self-Help Guide to Quality Information, Jean and Alexander Heard Library. Vanderbilt University; Strategies for Broadening a Topic. University Libraries. Information Skills Modules. Virginia Tech University.