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ENG 209 Essay 2: Research Essay (Jordan)

This step-by-step guide will help you complete Ms. Jordan's Eng 209 research essay.

3. Narrow Your Topic

Narrow SignOnce you've done some initial background reading, it's time to narrow down your topic to what you want to write about.  Depending on the topic option that you chose from your assignment, you will need to consider the questions posed by your teacher.  Your answer to the questions will be your thesis.

Your assignment 

As you start to narrow this down into a thesis, you'll want to continue to look for more sources. As you read, 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.

Keywords

As you think about what concepts you will be writing about consider what particular words might be in a good article about that concept. 

For instance, an article about the setting of Little Women might contain the word 'setting' or it might refer to the actual time and place of the work -- say the place is "New England" and the time period is "Reconstruction."  Those might be good keywords for you to pair with the name of the work.  

Another example: If you are writing about Virginia Woolf's, A Room of One's Own, and you're focused on the role of women in society, you may want to try these related keywords that may show up in a good source:

  • equality
  • identity
  • selfhood
  • feminist
  • gender roles

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.