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ENG 101: Foundations of Writing & Rhetoric

The official library guide fo Foundations of Writing & Rhetoric (formerly English Composition) classes at Minnesota State Mankato

Start Here: Best Library Resources for Foundations of Writing & Rhetoric Assignments

This guide contains information to help you do research for ENG 101: Foundations of Writing & Rhetoric assignments.

How to Refine your Topic

Sometimes, when you start researching, you don't know exactly what you're looking for. That's okay! You can start with a broad topic and narrow it to something more specific for your research project. Below are some tools to help you do so. 

How to Narrow: 

The easiest way to narrow your topic is to start with the broader umbrella category. Let's say you want to talk about nutrition. If you just started by putting 'nutrition' in the search bar, however, you'd quickly be overwhelmed by millions of entries.
So we narrow our topic. Start thinking of sub topics or pieces of your topic.  By getting more specific right away, it will help weed out a lot of extra sources and you can focus in on a more specific topic. 
You could try narrowing your topic by adding any of these aspects to your research:

  • by Time period (Nutrition in the Victorian era? After 1990?)
  • by Location - think state, region, or area (Nutrition in the U.S.? Nutrition in rural areas? Nutrition in schools?)
  • by Population. Consider culture, ethnicity, gender or age. (Nutrition and women? Nutrition and young adults?)
  • by Discipline (History of nutrition? Nutrition regulations? Marketing nutritional products?)
  • by Aspect (Nutrition and vegetarianism? Nutrition and meat? Nutrition and allergies?)
  • by Relationship. This means comparing or contrasting your topic with another. Look for similarities and differences (Marketing nutrition in the United States vs. another country? Nutrition in K-12 schools vs. nutrition at colleges and universities?)

Paying attention to these factors will help you focus on simply an aspect of your topic. Then you will have successfully narrowed your topic and your research to something much more manageable. 

Below you'll find a worksheet to help you narrow your own topic and a tutorial for what narrowing a topic during the research process might look like. 

Narrowing Topic Worksheet

Topic too narrow?

Sometimes you will do such a good job narrowing your topic you might actually end up with to few resources. That's alright! Then you just need to 'narrow' your topic but in reverse! You need to broaden your topic and search parameters.

  • First, try out different words for your topic. Instead of "Kids" try "children." Instead of "Minneapolis" try "Twin Cities."
  • If you still aren't finding enough sources, try broadening your concept a little. If you're looking into a town, try looking at the state instead. If you're looking at a specific age, broaden it to an age range like "teenagers" or "elderly."
  • If all else fails you can always combine/compare information. If you have a few sources on teens in India's social media use, you could compare this information to social media use by teens in the United States or to adult social media use.. Combining narrow topics into a comparison study will help you find and discuss research.

And, as always, if you still can't get enough evidence? Come see a librarian!

Find Introductory Information

Introductory information can help provide an overview of the subject,  help you better understand your topic, and also give you ideas for other terms and resources. Introductory information can be found in in encyclopedias and dictionaries and can help you start the research process. 

The library has a number of online encyclopedias, dictionaries, and reference materials. Read the descriptions or ask a librarian to help you find one that will work well for your topic and information needs.

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