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ENG 101 - Advertisements

3.  Narrow Your Topic

Narrow SignOnce you've done some initial background reading, it's time to narrow down what topics you want to discuss in your paper. Remember your assignment requirements and consider what you've read thus far.

Ask yourself:

What aspects of the ad do I want to focus on?

What interests me about this ad?

What cultural aspects do I want to write about?

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.


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.  For instance, if you are writing about an ad for Coca Cola from the 1950s that shows teenagers socializing at a soda parlor, think of related keywords:

Who Product Social and Cultural Factors Time Period

teenagers or teens

Coca-Cola or Coke

soft drinks (more general)






soda parlors


The Fifties


the '50s

It's best to not try too many keywords at one time. Try a search on a few keywords and then narrow from there. Our databases work best when you use a connecting word (and, or or) between search terms. Here are examples:

teens or teenagers and 1950s

dating and 1950s

Coke or Coca-Cola and advertising

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.