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IDS 101 - Argumentative Essay (Haller)

3. Narrow Your Topic

Narrow SignOnce you've done some initial background reading, it's time to narrow down your topic to what you really want to focus on.  Remember your assignment requirements and consider what you've read thus far.

Ask yourself:

What aspect of the topic do I want to focus on?

What interests me about the topic?

What do I want to write about?

Is there more than one side to this issue? What are the opposing viewpoints on it?

As you start to narrow this down into a topic/thesis, you'll want to continue to look for more sources. As you research, you might tweak or adjust your topic/thesis.  In order to help you find more related sources about your topic, you'll want to identify keywords to help you search.


As you think about what concepts you want to research, think about what particular words might be found in a good article about that topic.  For instance, if you are writing about the paying college athletes, think of related keywords:

Athletes Payment
  • college athletes
  • student athletes
  • Division 1 athletes
  • payment 
  • compensation
  • stipend
  • reimbursement

You can also combine your keywords to find articles connecting the two ideas. Unlike Google, our library databases work best using connector terms, such as AND or OR.

  • AND searches both terms together.
  • Searching college athletes AND compensation will get you results for sources that mention both college athletes and compensation.
  • OR gives you more results.
  • Searching college athletes OR student athletes tells the database that you want sources about either of those terms, since they mean the same thing.

Keywords work best by trial-and-error. Never do only one search. Some keywords will work better than others, and some keywords may lead you to different articles than you found in your first search.  Search the databases with the keywords you selected to find relevant articles. And remember to ask a librarian if you need assistance coming up with keywords or looking for sources.