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ENG 206 - Victorian Literature (Ramsey)

3. Narrow Your Topic

Once you've done some initial exploration of the era and the literature, it's time to narrow your focus to some concrete aspects you want to focus in on.  Choose the aspects of the history and literature that you think will be most helpful to support your ideas. Begin to brainstorm a working thesis that states the viewpoint you are going to argue/support in your paper. 

As you start to work on your thesis and supporting examples, you'll want to brainstorm keywords that might help you find secondary sources. You may decide to adjust your topic or thesis as you search for sources. This is a natural part of the research process.  See below for some help on brainstorming keywords

Search Tips

As you think about what concepts you want to write about, think about what particular words might be found in a good article about that topic. Consider the following when searching databases and e-books:

  • Enter the name of the work with the word "and" and the concept you are looking for  Example: "Hard Times" AND Poverty
  • Keywords work best by trial-and-error
  • Never do only one search
  • Some keywords will work better than others.​ Consider synonyms or words that may bring up articles that include your topic. If you use the word "OR" between your search terms, it will include results with any of those terms in them:

    Industrialization OR automation OR "mass production"

    Religion OR faith OR spiritual

    Gender OR Feminism OR Sex

  • Remember to also use "Search Within Results" option to search further into your results.

  • To find a specific word in an article, hold down the "Ctrl" key (or "Command" key if you are on a Mac) and then hit the letter "F" and then enter the word you are looking for in the box that appears.
  • And remember to ask a librarian if you need assistance coming up with keywords or looking for sources.