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AMS 210 Concepts in American Studies

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List keywords to define your topic

  • A keyword is a search term that conveys the principle concept of your topic - the more complicated the topic is, the more keywords you may need
  • State your research topic as a question or a thesis statement
  • Start your list of search terms using the words in the question/statement

For example, for the question
“What effect did the Carpetbaggers have on the economy of the southern United States after the Civil War?”

sample search terms are “carpetbaggers” “Civil War" "south" "United States" and “economy”

  • Think about the significant terms, concepts and words that describe your topic - these ideas are the key to searching for information in library catalogs, online databases and other resources
  • If the words you chose aren't working, try synonyms
3 list keywords

Narrow your topic: too much information

If your topic seems too broad, consider these questions:

  • What do you already know about the subject?
  • Is there a specific time period you want to cover?
  • Is there a geographic region or country on which you would like to focus?
  • Is there a particular aspect of this topic that interests you? For example, historical influence, sociological aspects, psychological angles, specific groups or individuals involved in the topic.