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Sources to help narrow your topic
If you can define a narrow, focused topic, your paper will be easier to do and the end result will be better. There are several ways you can narrow your topic.
- Read an encyclopedia article on the topic. Almost certainly, you will find that the topic is more complex than you imagined. Look for a person, time period, issue, or sub-topic on which to focus.
- Search your topic in the databases JSTOR or America: History and Life and browse the range of articles you find. Look for patterns and themes. This will give you an idea of the major aspects of your topic and the availability of scholarly articles on it. You may also be able to identify individual scholars who have written a lot on the topic.
- Subject headings in the library catalog. Do a keyword search on your topic. Then scroll to the bottom of the screen and find a list of related terms.
- Look at the subjects or keywords assigned to the books and articles you find.
- Subject terms and thesauri in online databases. Look for a tab on your database that says "Terms" or "Subject terms" or "Thesaurus", and it will lead you to a thesaurus that will give you ideas of broader and narrower terms.
- L'Année Philologique has a very useful breakdown on material by subject ("Subjects and disciplines"), and it specializes in ancient Greece and Rome.
Links to Sources for Selecting and Narrowing Your Topic