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Introduction to the Honors Thesis: Your Topic

Taught by Amy Harris and Grace Veach

Websites to help you choose and refine a topic

Finding Good Keywords


1. Write out your topic as a sentence or question.

2. What are the key words in your statement or question?

3. Using a thesaurus, list synonyms for your keywords.

4. Using an encyclopedia, look up your topic and find other keywords from the entry.

Try various combinations of the keywords as you search for resources.



Steps to finding and narrowing your topic

One of the most important steps you can take to get an A is actually one of the easiest.  Picking a great topic will help you immeasurably as you continue with your writing and presenting process.  Here are some general guidelines:

1. Pick a topic that you are interested in-- perhaps in your major field or a subject you have always wanted to know more about.

2. Pick a topic about which you need to learn.  If you feel that you are already an expert in your topic, your research will be an afterthought and you may not be as open to looking at all sides of an issue.

3. Pick a topic about which you can make an argument.  You have grown beyond reports on butterflies or planets.

4. Pick a topic which is neither too broad nor too narrow.  Too broad: I want to write about homosexual marriage.  Too narrow: What effect does being raised with same-sex parents have on junior high aged Asian girls in Texas?  About right: Gay couples who go through a commitment or marriage ceremony stay together longer than heterosexual couples.

5. Once you have an area that interests you, get a broad overview of the subject.  See the box below for some places to get a good overview. 

6. Begin to list keywords on your topic.  Keywords are very important when it comes to locating the best sources possible.  Good keywords are subject-specific (i.e. "gay marriage" "homosexuals and marriage" "homosexuals and adoption," etc.).  Keywords such as "study," "find," "source," or "research" are not good keywords because they are not subject-specific.  See the box to the left for a worksheet on deriving your keywords.

Getting an overview

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