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POS 2041 (Branz) - Term Paper Assignment: Background Information & Narrowing the Topic

This is a guide for students in Professor Branz' US Government class. It contains useful resources for completing the research for your term paper assignment.

Step 1. Gathering Background Information

This step is a fact-finding mission. You are learning more about the topic you have chosen.

Once you have learned a bit about the topic, you must decide what kind of essay to write -- informative, comparative, historical, or persuasive. The same topic might suit all of these, so you need to CHOOSE ONE. This is called NARROWING the topic.

Example: Topic: 1969 Moon Landing

  • Informative: Factors that led to the successful Apollo 11 mission.
  • Comparative: Comparing the American and Soviet space programs.
  • Historical: How the space race affected the outcome of the Cold War.
  • Persuasive: The United States needs another 'space race' to unify the country.

Each of these different possibilities would require different information about the topic. Thus, the work you do at this stage sets the groundwork for the more detailed research you will do later.

Search Strategy

  1. Use the library databases below to search for your topic.
  2. Take notes on the information you find.
  3. Come up with several possibilities for different types of essays you could write (see example in the box to the left).
  4. Choose one that interests you.

Informative, Historical or Comparative Essays

Argumentative & Persuasive Essays

Subject Guide

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Regina Seguin (Valencia College)
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