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Boatwright Memorial Library

English 399: Crime in America

How to Narrow and Focus Your Topic

Start by phrasing your subject or general topic in the form of a question.

Then ask yourself further questions about your topic:

  • What do you know about it? What don't you know?
  • What aspects or viewpoints of your topic interest you? Examples include social, ethical,  psychological, aesthetic, economic, political, and philosophical.
  • What time period do the crimes and the narratives cover?
  • .How does the narrative structure, imply or assume your understanding of the populations involved as actors, witnesses, and readers? (Categories may involve gender, race, class, age, occupation, nationality, etc)
  • How does your topic fit into a larger system or structure?
  • What do you need to know about the background of these events? Were they preceded  by other events that affected the coverage in the media?. Some selected general and specialized subject sources can help narrow the topic.
  • Remember, there are two layers of research:
    1) a broad search to discover resources and to read some background information
    2) specific searches for information once you've focused your topic.

Basic Library Tools