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ENG/HST/HUM/REL 492: Narrowing Your Topic

Senior Thesis Prep

Brain Break

Photo credit: Krista Reynolds, 2012

Narrowing Your Topic

Ideas to Help You Create a Sufficiently Narrow Thesis

  • Identify gaps in knowledge as you read on your topic. What is missing from previous studies? What questions come to mind?
  • Identify contradictions that appear in previous studies. Investigate and explain those contradictions.
  • Identify concepts that need further explanation. Frequently authors of scholarly papers mention areas of study that are lacking, in their concluding section. Start collecting those ideas.

Finally: Why is your question important?  Why is it relevant to the field and why should your reader continue reading? Create a compelling case.

Note: You will need to do a fair amount of reading in order to accomplish the tasks above. Remember, you will become an expert on this topic!

Literature Review

The goal of a literature review is to determine the current state of knowledge on a topic. This will provide context for your reader, and you will explain how your thesis expands upon what is already known. This section helps define the path along which you will take your readers.

And this is where your research comes in! Seek all scholarly information (or data) that relates to your topic, including information that contradicts your ideas. By addressing contradictions in your paper, you will be more convincing.

If you feel like you are putting together a giant jigsaw puzzle, you are (in a way)!

To organize information from your sources, use this synthesis matrix provided by North Carolina State University.

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