- Read your assignment
- Ask questions
- Choose a topic
- Refine your focus
- Ask a research question
- Generate keywords
What this guide is for:
- This guide supports the research you will do in English 101.
- You can use this as a guide as you work through the process of collecting, evaluating, and citing sources.
- To begin, start by choosing which step of the research process you are at by using the quick links on the left side of the screen.
Before you start looking:
Stop. Breathe. Read your assignment. If you don't know what to research, then the first step is to look over the assignment for clues as to what your instructor wants you to write about. Try underlining or highlighting the specific requirements of the assignment to help you stay on track.
Ask questions. If anything is unclear, or if you are uncertain about anything, be sure to ask! As you work through this process, draw on the many resources available to you. You can attend your professor’s office hours, schedule an appointment with a librarian, and visit the campus Writing Center.
Choose a topic. Start big. If your topic hasn’t been assigned, choose something you’re interested in like a particular text, an author, or a larger theoretical concern. For example, if you want to write about the short story “Everyday Use,” you might start with that text, Alice Walker, or questions of identity.
But then sometimes there are just too many possibilities. Choose keywords that draw on the terminology from studies on literary texts and on your topic. Explore what the experts have to say in order to choose those keywords that will be most helpful to you.
→ Everyday Use
Scholarly Vs. Popular
Where to find things:
A database works like iTunes, except databases organize many types of information, not just music. A database is information that has been collected and organized to be easier to find.
Limiters help you narrow your search in a database. Check or uncheck these options to see only those sources you want or need!
- peer reviewed: This will give you only scholarly articles
- date range: See articles from before, after, or during certain years
- full-text: A favorite! This makes sure that gives you the whole article
- related terms (add terms to focus your search)
Academic Search Complete is the world's largest academic database that searches across thousands of journals, across all majors, to give you full-text results.
What to do with your research:
- Look at the title. Does it look like it’s related to your topic?
- What can you tell about the authors? Do they look credible?
- Look alright so far? Read the abstract to be sure. If you can’t read the abstract because it uses weird words or complicated sentences, throw it away. It’s only useful if you can read it. If everything checks out, the source is probably good.
- Does it contain useful information that you can use? Can this source add to, challenge, or expand your thinking about this topic?
Mine your sources. for useful information. Now that you have your thesis, you want to gather evidence to support it. Read through each source and pick out the ideas and phrases that best support your thesis. Compile a list of points/quotes made that speak to your research interest or question. A twenty page article, for example, might give you four or five really good ideas.
You need to produce in-text citations; a works cited (that matches your in-text citations). To get a better sense of the nuts and bolts of citation, turn to The First-Year Composition Guide or look at the How to Cite Resources Research Guide. To master the citation process (or begin to master it, as it is quite complicated!), turn to the MLA style guide. It will tell you everything you need to know about citing in MLA style!