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ENG 101 - "Greatest Generation" (Garber)

This guide provides research advice, searching tips, and recommended resources for Ms. Garber's "greatest generation" argument 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 write about.  Remember your assignment requirements and consider what you've read thus far.

Ask yourself:

Which generation do I feel was the greatest?

What characteristics of the generation support my argument?

What historical or cultural events did my generation experience to help shape these characteristics?

As you start to narrow this down into a thesis, you'll want to continue to look for more sources. As you read, 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 & Searching

As you think about what concepts you want to write about, think about what particular words might be found in a good article about that topic. Your main keyword will likely be the name of your generation - for instance, Millennials, Generation X, Baby Boomers, etc. Searching just the name of the generation may be a good starting point to see everything about that generation. This will give you an idea how many sources there are about a particular generation, and the focus of different articles may give you additional ideas to support your argument.

After that, you'll want to pair the name of your generation with an additional keyword or phrase to focus your search to different aspects of that generation. Use the word 'and' to connect the keywords - this tells the database you want to find articles that include both aspects. For instance:

Millennials and workplace

Then think of synonyms for your search terms that may find additional articles:

Millennials and job

Millennials and employment

History Searches

In addition to searching for information about your generation, you can also search for historical and cultural information for the time period that the generation was 'coming of age' (usually teenage years through 20s or 30s). This is the age that the generation was developing their characteristics, opinions, behaviors, etc. It's the time period that usually most affects them. For instance, the Baby Boomer generation was coming of age during the Vietnam War and the resignation of President Nixon after Watergate, so those events greatly affected who they are. You can search for information about these historical or cultural events to help inform your argument. These searches work best in our history databases (see next page - 4. Find Sources).

Vietnam War


You can also search for decades:



By learning about the culture and events of certain decades, you can get a better idea of the identity of your generation, what challenges they might have faced, and what culture they are responsible for.

Tip: In general, remember that 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.

Generations - Names and Dates

As you are searching, be flexible with the names and dates of generations. The hardest part about this assignment is the vocabulary-- what to call your generation. Be aware that different sources refer to generations in different ways, so you might have to look more closely to determine which generation is being talked about.

These are just some of the terms you might see (there are more):

  • iGeneration - Generation Z, App Generation, Digital Natives
  • Millennials - Generation Y, Echo Boom Generation, Net Generation, Boomerang Generation, etc.
  • Generation X - Baby Bust Generation
  • Baby Boomers - Sandwich Generation
  • Swing Generation - Silent Generation, Forgotten Generation

If you have any trouble finding the kind of information you're looking for on a particular decade, please Ask a Librarian.

Also different sources will give different dates for the generations. Be flexible. Whether the Millenials started in 1977, 1980 or 1981 or even 1984 isn't going to change your conclusion that much.