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ENG 101 - Societal Problem and Solution (Ramsey)

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?

What potential solutions are there to this topic?

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 the role of the government in net neutrality think of related keywords:

  • government AND net neutrality
  • government AND open internet
  • net neutrality AND United States
  • open internet 
  • open internet OR net neutrality
  • AND means you are searching both terms together.
  • Searching government AND net neutrality will get you results related to the government and net neutrality. 
  • OR gives you more results.
  • OR tells the database that you want results that are related to the open internet or net neutrality, since those are similar terms that can mean the same thing.
  • NOT excludes terms from your search.
  • By using NOT you are telling the database that you want information about one topic, but absolutely no information from the other.

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