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ENGL 1030/1035 (University Writing & Research)

A guide for University Writing and Research

Topic Idea Starters

Sources for Background Information

There are a number of print Reference resources on the main floor of the Learning Commons (east side), such as the Encyclopedia of Educational Research, and The Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. These sources are great for background information on a topic, as well as locating additional evidence sources for your topic. When searching the library system, items with an "Ref" in the call number (i.e., Ref. LB15 .E48) are located on the main floor of the Learning Commons. Ask a librarian for assistance if you are having difficulty finding credible and relevant sources for your topic.

The following resources provide access to electronic versions (eBooks) of subject-specific dictionaries, encyclopedias, and handbooks.

Narrowing a Topic

Answer the following 5Ws when narrowing a topic -- Who?, What?, Where?, Why?, and When?. The following is an example of how a topic might be narrowed:

Topic:   Immigration

Narrower topic: Immigration policy

Narrower topic: Immigration policy reform

Narrower topic: Immigration policy reform (What?) -- Public opinion (Who?) -- United States (Germany, United Kingdom, France, etc.) (Where?)

Narrower topic: Immigration policy reform (What?) -- United States (Where?) -- 20th century (When?)

This 5 minute, 20 second video illustrates the practice of narrowing one's research and writing topic. The video was created by Henry Madden Library, Fresno State University. For information on how to find sources for your topic through the NNU Riley Library, contact or stop by the Research Help Desk in the Learning Commons