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BIO 101 - Research Paper (Winterrowd)

This guide is designed to help you complete Dr. Winterrowd's BIO 101 research guide.

3. Narrow Your Focus

Narrow SignOnce you've done some initial exploration about your topic, it's time to narrow your focus to some concrete aspects that you want to focus on in your research and writing. Remember your assignment requirements and consider what you've learned thus far. Brainstorm or outline the elements of the topic that you think you want to address. 

Remember that your paper needs to be a more specific, detailed explanation of a Biology 101 topic. You're not just repeating the information from your textbook or class. You have to dive deeper. You'll give a little background information in your paper, but the main focus is a specific scientific hypothesis (or thesis) that is being explored in your primary scientific experiment article.

As you start to outline or brainstorm, you'll want to think about keywords that might help you find sources for your paper. See below for some help on brainstorming keywords.


For keywords, think of terms associated with your topic. Be sure to include the scientific names that you came across during your background research (don't just use the common names).

For instance, if you're wanting to find articles about 'mad cow' disease, you'll have found through your reading that it's scientific name is actually 'bovine spongiform encephalopathy' or BSE.

Usually you want to select one to three keywords that address the main idea that you're exploring. Use the word 'and' to connect these keywords in your search. The databases don't like full sentences or long phrases, so selecting a few keywords usually works better. For instance, if you're looking at the role of apoptosis (cell death) in cancer patients, you might start off with a basic keyword search like this:

apoptosis and cancer

If you were specifically interested in the role of apoptosis in development of cancer treatments, you could try this search:

apoptosis and cancer and treatment

Keywords often work best by trial-and-error. Never do only one search, and never search just one database! Some keywords will work better than others, and some keywords may lead you to different articles than you found in your first search. Research is a cyclical process that is constantly evolving as you learn more information. On the next page, you'll find the library scientific databases where you can use your keywords to find relevant scientific studies. And remember to ask a librarian if you need assistance coming up with keywords or looking for sources.