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ENG 101 - Pop Culture Analysis (Garber/Lawrence/Suber)

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.  Keep in mind your assignment requirements and consider what you've read thus far.

Remember that your thesis might answer one of the following research questions:

  • Are pop culture artists ethically and morally responsible for the content of their work?
  • Many people so fascinated, some even obsessed, with famous people? How does celebrity worship affect society?
  • How can pop culture be an instrument for social change?

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

As you decide 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 the t.v. show American Idol as a popular culture artifact, think about related words that might bring up articles related to the aspects you want to explore.

It helps to surround search phrases with quotation marks. This lets the computer know you are searching for that specific phrase. For example, for general background material on the show, you could search:

"American Idol"

Then, if you want to find more specific information, you can combine search terms to find specific aspects about the popularity of American Idol. Unlike Google, our databases work best when using connector terms, such as and​ or or. Here are some examples:

"American Idol" and influence

"American Idol" and society

"American Idol" and popularity

​For information about popular culture, remember that it is sometimes referred to as "pop culture." Some example searches:

"pop culture"

"popular culture"

"pop culture" or "popular culture" (this lets you search both at the same time)

"popular culture" and influence

"popular culture" and history

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.