Skip to Main Content
Lloyd Sealy Library
John Jay College of Criminal Justice

English 101

A Guide to Research Resources selected for students in ENG 101 classes

How Do I Come Up with a Topic?

Your research topic should be related to the theme of your class. Think of the issues or controversies that have come up in class discussions and readings. What would you want to learn more about?

Browsing through news and magazine sites may also give you an idea what to write about. Check out the following sites:

This guide from Pennsylvania State University Libraries offers helpful tips on choosing a topic.

How Do I Learn More about My Topic?

Once you have a general idea of the topic you'd like to explore, gather some background information. Getting a better understanding of the topic and its complexity will make it easier for you to pick the particular aspect that interests you the most.

Search for your topic in these online library databases:

How Do I Access Databases from Off-Campus?

To access the above databases off campus, log in using the same username and password that you use for your John Jay email.

Forgot your password? Reset it.

Sign in problems? »

How Do I Focus My Topic?

After you have come up with an idea for a topic and done some preliminary research, you will need to focus your topic. You should be able to narrow down your topic by considering the following questions:

  • What/whom is your topic about?
  • What is the time period you are interested in?
  • Where is the topic taking place?
  • How will you approach your topic?

This self-guided tutorial by Pennsylvania State University Libraries will teach you how to move from a broad idea to a focused research question.

The table below also shows how to narrow down a general topic.

General Topic Topic Narrowed Down a Bit Topic Narrowed Down Even More
Education in Prisons History of Prison Education

- The earliest prison education initiatives

- Current prison education programs in the state of New York

  Justification for Prison Education

- Societal benefits

- Transformation of individual lives

  Funding of Prison Education

- Federal support

- Differences across states