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American Humanities

Developing a Topic

Typically a research topic should be narrowed and focused, which will be more manageable than an overly broad topic. Think how hard it would be to write a 5-page paper on just the United States! What would you include? How would you structure it? By focusing your topic, you will have an easier time with your research.

You may start with a broad topic, and not be sure how to focus it. By exploring background information you can learn about a topic and its parts. As you read through background information, consider if you can focus your topic in the following ways:

  • Geographically - limit by a region, country, state, or city like Philadelphia or New England
  • Chronologically - limit by a time period like colonial or 19th century
  • People or Groups - limit to a specific person or group such as George Washington or Cherokee
  • Current or Historical Events - limit to a particular event such as the Civil War or prohibition
  • Specific Examples - limit to specific examples of a broad topic. For example, instead of music, consider protest songs or electric guitar.

Background Information

Reference books can provide background information on various topics, helping you to better understand your topic. Typically entries on topics will be brief, between 1-20 pages, and can help you find related topics and areas.

Background information can help you learn about the history, scope, depth, and breadth of your topic. It can be useful to help you understand a subject, as well as give you information to help you narrow a topic.

Credo Reference

Access Credo  |  Video Tutorial  |  How to Cite

Credo Reference is a online database that contains the full text of more than 900 online reference books. The results in this database will give you brief information about subjects and help you learn more as you narrow your topic. You can also use the mind map feature to explore related topics.

Credo mind map for Manifest Destiny

Reference Books

These titles are located either in the Reference Collection on the second floor of the L.W. Tyree Library or the Circulating Collection on the third floor. Books in the second floor Reference Collection are available for in-library use only and books in the third floor Circulating Collection may be borrowed. Use the call number to locate the item. 

Some books are available online. Look for the word 'eBook' in the call number to identify eBooks. To read the eBook, click the title and then log in.

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