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HIS 105 Argumentative Paper (Nass)

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?

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 Columbian Exchange, think of related keywords:

  • Columbian Exchange
  • Old World
  • New World
  • Columbian Exchange AND tobacco
  • Columbian Exchange AND tobacco OR potato
  • Columbian Exchange OR Christopher Columbus
  • Columbian Exchange NOT scarlet fever
AND OR NOT
  • AND means you are searching both terms together.
  • Searching Columbian Exchange AND tobacco will get you results related to both the Columbian Exchange and tobacco.
  • OR gives you more results.
  • OR tells the database you want results that are related to the Columbian Exchange OR Christopher Columbus because those are two terms that are closely related to each other.
  • NOT excludes terms from your search.
  • Searching Columbian Exchange NOT scarlet fever will find you results related to the Columbian Exchange by exclude results that mention scarlet fever.

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.