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PSC 101 - Hall: Step 1 - Topics and Keywords

This Guide will help you find and cite sources for your research paper.

Topic Sentences and Keyword Selection

Dr. Hall has given you a list of topic sentences to choose from when researching your paper. Below are some hints on how to think about creating search phrases for database searches.

Topic # 3 is about the death penalty and the argument that the practice violates the "cruel and unusual punishment" clause of the 8th amendment. Break up the sentence into keywords:

  • "death penalty" OR "capital punishment"
  • 8th OR "eighth amendment"
  • "cruel and unusual punishment"

Note the different wording of death penalty vs. capital punishment. It is important to think about different words that mean the same thing, because this broadens your possible search results. Different writers use different words for the same concepts.

Also, using quotes around phrases tells the computer to search that exact phrase.

Since this is an argument paper, you may also want to use the word debate in your search. For example:

  • "death penalty" AND "8th amendment" AND debate


As a sample topic, I will research the debate about universal basic income, which is the concept of giving every adult a certain about of money every month as a basic source of income. Click the Step 2 Searching the Databases tab to begin researching!


If you need help researching your topic or citing sources, please use my email contact information listed on the right side of the page or schedule a Research Appointment. Usually appointments are conducted in person, but with campus closed we can correspond by email during the appointment time. Also, don't hesitate to email Dr. Hall with any questions.

If you need help citing sources or would like someone to review your paper for grammar, etc, please contact our great writing tutors at the Tutoring and Learning Center.  They can work online with you!

Reference Librarian

John Fitzsimmons's picture
John Fitzsimmons
Elizabeth Sturm Library
7000 Dandini Blvd.
Reno, NV 89512-3999