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ENGLISH 105-6: Coming of Age, Coming to College (Yarnoff): Getting Started

Keywords and phrases

Some suggested keywords and phrases that you can use in searching the library catalog (NUsearch) and the library databases are below. Feel free to try your own phrases or jot down words and phrases you find within article search results. Also try different combinations of words in your search phrases. For best results, remember to use quotation marks around phrases of two words or more (e.g. "self concept" AND college).

  • autonomy
  • college students
  • coming of age
  • educational experience
  • emotional adjustment
  • identity, identity formation
  • learning
  • self concept
  • self determination
  • social aspects
  • student adjustment

NU Library online catalog

Subject Guide

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Tracy Coyne
she/her/hers
Contact:
tracy-coyne@northwestern.edu
339 E. Chicago Ave., 2nd Floor
Chicago, IL 60611
Office phone (312) 503-6617

Gather background info / Focus your topic

Somewhere in between your initial idea and settling on a research question, you may need to do background research on how scholars in a particular subject area have discussed your topic. You may find background research in your textbook or class readings, academic books in the library's collection, or reference sources.

The databases below compile encyclopedia sources from a variety of disciplines, and they can be a great way to consider how your topic has been studied from different angles.

Use NUSearch to browse for books, reference entries, and periodicals to build background information.

 

After you have an initial project idea, you can think deeper about the idea by developing a "Topic + Question + Significance" sentence. This formula came from Kate Turabian's Student's Guide to Writing College Papers. Turabian notes that you can use it plan and test your question, but do not incorporate this sentence directly into your paper (p. 13):

TOPIC: I am working on the topic of __________,
QUESTION: because I want to find out __________,
SIGNIFICANCE: so that I can help others understand __________.

Turabian, Kate L. Student's Guide to Writing College Papers. 4th edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 2010.
 

Remember: the shorter your final paper, the narrower your topic needs to be. Having trouble?

  • Which specific subset of the topic you can focus on? Specific demographic groups, people, places, times
  • Is there something about this topic that is not already addressed in scholarship?
  • Is there a relationship you can explore:
    • cause/effect
    • compare/contrast
    • current/historical
    • group/individual
    • opinion/reason
    • problem/solution

 

How do you move from a topic or a research question to searching in a database? You first have to pick out keywords from your research question.