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ENGL 102 - English Composition II - McGuire

Background Resources

Opposing Viewpoints

Topic overviews, contrasting viewpoints, articles, primary source documents, statistics, videos, and recommended websites covering specific issues.

Credo Reference

Credo Reference

Articles from encyclopedias, dictionaries, and other reference sources from all subject areas. Includes images, audio pronunciation files, maps, and data tables.

Gale Ebooks

Gale Ebooks

Collection of encyclopedias, dictionaries and handbooks covering a variety of subject areas.

How To: Background Reading to Understand Your Topic

There is a tendency for people to type general questions into a database and hope for the best. While this barely works for Google, it definitely doesn't work well with the databases. By identifying the more narrow parts of your initial question you will get more meaningful results. Here is an example of how you can break down a general question into it's narrower concepts. 

Why are bees disappearing?

I am not a bee expert, so there are multiple places I can look for answers. If I choose AccessScience (because bees are related to a science) and type in bees disappearing, I find this article titled "Colony Collapse Disorder"

From this article, I can answer some questions I didn't even know I had.   

This table explains how general terms can be adjusted to specific terms. 
General Term What I didn't know before Better Choice
bees What kind of bees? adult honeybees
disappearing Is there a term scientists use for this? "Colony Collapse Disorder"
why What explanations exist?  pesticides

From here I can adjust my original question about why bees are disappearing (the result) to identify a cause and use more narrow language. 

Pesticides are causing Colony Collapse Disorder in honeybee colonies. 


Broad / Narrow / Just Right

Your topic is too broad if...

  • you are having difficulty discussing something in depth or writing something original.
  • the only similarity between your resources is that they all mention the word you typed. 
  • there are a lot of subtopics within the concept.
  • there is a book with that title.

Example that is too broad: North American Tree Squirrels.


Your topic is too narrow if...

  • you get no (or only a few) results in the databases. 
  • you get a lot results in the databases, but they're not what you're looking for.
  • you can't seem to find anything to support your ideas.

Example that is too narrow: Squirrel response to student presence on the community college campus in North America.

Your topic is just right if...

  • you readily find articles that match with your ideas.
  • you can see the connection between the work, the article, and your interest.
  • you feel like you'll be able to write enough without stretching it or editing it down too much.

Example that is just right: Different responses to human presence among rural and urban squirrels.