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ENG 100: Conspiracy Theory (Hamrick)

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 write about.  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?

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 want to write about, think about what particular words might be found in a good article about that topic.  For instance, if you are writing about the U.S. moon landing in 1969, think of related keywords:

  • moon landing AND conspiracy
  • Apollo Program OR Project Apollo AND conspiracy
  • Space Race
  • NASA

You can also combine "moon landing" with some of your search terms to find articles connecting the two ideas. Unlike Google, our databases work best when using connector terms, such as AND or OR.

*Tip: When using connector terms (also called Boolean Operators), remember that AND means you are searching both terms together. Searching moon landing AND conspiracy will get you results related to both the moon landing and conspiracies.

OR gives you more results. OR tells the database that you want information about the Apollo Program OR Project Apollo, since those are both names for the same term. 

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.

Tips for Searching

In addition for looking for information about your conspiracy theory, you should also consider the context of how your conspiracy theory came to be. This might mean you do some research about what was happening in history or geographically depending on when or where is relevant to your conspiracy theory.

For example, for a paper about the conspiracy theory of whether or not the U.S. did land on the moon, you might want to do research about the Space Race, which was a competition between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. (Soviet Union) to see which nation would be the first to effectively travel to space.