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ENG 101 - Countries Compare and Contrast (Grigg)

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 are the similarities between the country and the U.S.?

What are the differences between the country and the U.S.?

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 differences in the education system between India and the U.S., think of related keywords:

  • education
  • school
  • "primary school"
  • "elementary school"
  • "secondary school"
  • "high school"
  • "higher education"

You can also combine your keywords to find articles connecting two (or more) ideas. Unlike Google, our library databases work best using connector terms, such as AND or OR.

  • AND searches both terms together.
  • Searching "higher education" AND India will get you results for sources that mention both higher education and India.
  • OR gives you more results.
  • Searching "primary school" OR "elementary school" tells the database that you want sources about either of those terms, since they mean the same thing.

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.