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ENG 101 - Communication (Suber)

This guide is designed to help with Ms. Suber's communication research paper in English 101.

3. Narrow Your Topic

Narrow Sign

Once 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:

What aspect of the topic do I want to focus on?

What interests me about the topic?

What 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.


Once you've narrowed your topic and thought about keywords, try searching the databases below for potential sources you can use for your paper.  Try to find sources that provide evidence to support your thesis.  If your keywords aren't working, ask a librarian for help!

Search Tips

Use AND between two or more terms to find materials with all the terms.

bullying AND schools

gender AND communication AND workplace

Use OR between similar terms or synonyms to search for either term.

teenagers OR adolescents 

Use NOT between terms to exclude words from your search

           teenagers NOT adults

Use quotation marks around phrases (two or more words); this tells the database to look for the words in that specific order.

“fake news” OR misinformation 

Use an asterisk to find multiple endings of one word.

Communicat* = communicate, communicates, communicated,communicator, communication

Use parentheses with a combination of AND, OR, or NOT to nest terms together.

"social media" AND (bullying OR harass*)

The keywords you choose work best by trial-and-error. Think of synonyms and try additional searches. Never do only one search because some keywords will work better than others. 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

Suggested Topics

The first thing you need to do before you begin a research paper is to figure out what topic you're going to write about. If you start with a broad area such as "interpersonal communication," you will need to narrow it to a more specific topic such as workplace communication, man-woman communication, interpersonal communication in children, nonverbal communication childhood communication disorders, etc.

Also, keep in mind that you need outside resources for your paper. Before you totally commit to a topic or focus area, you'll want to make sure that there are enough outside sources on the topic for your assignment. Not every topic is going to have information written about it. Do some searching in the library's databases to make sure there are sources.

This is a list of suggested topics, but you are not limited to these. Remember that you will have to narrow the broader topics.

  • Interpersonal communication
  • Workplace communication
  • Bullying in the workplace
  • Face-to-face communication
  • Nonverbal communication (and culture or and gender)
  • Communication - Gender differences
  • Gender and communication and workplace
  • Human / animal communication
  • Intergenerational communication
  • Childhood communication disorders 
  • Interracial marriage and communication
  • Business communication
  • Unique communication challenges faced by bicultural persons
  • Communication between students and teachers
  • Communication among teens
  • Communication in advertising (subliminal messages)
  • Social media or technology
  • Intercultural communication
  • Communication and the media
  • Fake news