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ENG 165 - Workplace Issues

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 focus on.  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 topic/thesis, you'll want to continue to look for more sources. As you research, 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 research, think about what particular words might be found in a good article about that topic.  For instance, if you are writing about employee burnout in the workplace think of related keywords:

  • employee burnout
  • burnout AND workplace
  • burnout OR emotional exhaustion AND workplace
  • employee burnout NOT management

You can also combine "employee burnout" with some of your other search terms to find articles connecting the two ideas. Unlike Google, our databases work best when using connector terms (also called Boolean Operators), such as AND, OR, and NOT.

*Tip: When using connector terms/Boolean Operators, remember that AND means you are searching both terms together. Searching burnout AND workplace will get you results related to both burnout and the workplace.

OR gives you more results. OR tells the database that you want information about burnout OR emotional exhaustion, since those are both terms that can mean the same thing.

NOT removes terms from your search. Searching employee burnout NOT management will give you results that are related to employee burnout, but will exclude anything that is related to management. 

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