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Eng 101 - Great American Trials

3. Narrow Your Topic

Narrow SignOnce you've done some initial background reading about your trial, it's time to narrow down your trial to what you really want to write about.  For this assignment, you must analyze the verdict and form an opinion on whether you think the verdict was just or unjust.  Remember your assignment requirements and consider what you've read thus far.

Ask yourself:

What was the verdict?

Do I agree with the verdict?

Was the verdict just or unjust?

As you start to narrow the verdict (and your opinion) down into a thesis, you'll want to continue to look for more sources. As you read, you might tweak or change your opinion about the verdict. 

 If you need help, Ask-A-Librarian.

Keywords & Searching

Sometimes these trials can be difficult to search for. Information about them can be found by searching the victim's name, the defendants' name(s), and very often by a nickname the trial is often known by (for example, the Scottsboro Boys Trial or the Lindbergh Baby Trial). You should try all of these ways of searching for information, especially if you're not finding enough sources. However, be careful when you're searching the trial names - sometimes less is more, and often including the word 'trial' limits your search results drastically.

For instance, here are three different searches in EBSCO eBook Collection.

Scottsboro Boys Trial - 0 results

Scottsboro Boys - 8 results, but they don't look that good

Scottsboro - 20 results, and they look like better results

Here's another example:

Samuel Sheppard Trial - 0 results

Sam Sheppard Trial - 1 result, looks relevant

Sam Sheppard - 17 results, all look pretty good

Also keep in mind some trials have a lot more information written about them than others. McMartin Preschool is one that may be hard to find enough information on, so be sure to do a little looking before you commit to a trial.

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.