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CRJ 101: Behavior Theories Paper

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 theory do I want to focus on?

What interests me about the theory?

What do I want to write about?

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.

Keywords

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 Rehabilitative Perspective, think of related keywords:

  • Rehabilitative Perspective
  • rehabilitation AND criminal justice system
  • rehab OR rehabilitation
  • rehabilitation NOT drug addiction

You can combine "Rehabilitative Perspective" with some of your search terms to find articles connecting the two ideas. Unlike Google, library databases work best using connector terms, such as AND, OR, and NOT.

AND OR NOT
  • AND means you are searching both terms together
  • Searching rehabilitation AND criminal justice system will get you results related to both rehabilitation and the criminal justice system.
  • OR gives you more results.
  • OR tells the database that if you wanted information about rehab OR rehabilitation, since those are both names for a similar term.
  • NOT excludes terms from your search.
  • Searching rehabilitation NOT drug addiction will give you results that are related to rehabilitation, but will exclude any articles mentioning drug addiction.

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.