ENG 108: English Composition

by gratz_ae — last modified 2016-04-28T16:30:23-04:00

This guide will help you locate resources for your research assignment. If you need any assistance, please contact or , the librarians for this class, or another librarian at the Ask Jack desk.

Useful Information:

Five Steps to Effective Library Research 

A lengthier version of this guide is available here.

 1. Identify and Develop Your Topic

  • State your topic as a question - having a specific question to answer helps you know when you're done with your research. For example, instead of "athletics increase college revenue," you might ask "Do athletics programs increase revenue at colleges, and does this increase only impact the athletics programs?" 
  • It is important to make certain that your question is neither too broad nor too narrow, although this can be difficult to determine. Remember that you can, and often should, change your research question based on the information you are able to find. 
  • Always use research questions you find interesting! The research process will seem less tedious if you genuinely want to know the answer to your question.

2. Find the Context/Background Information on Your Topic

  • You can probably skip this step for this assignment, since you should already be familiar with the topics you chose.
  • If you struggled to come up with a question, it is often useful to get some background information before deciding on a final topic.
  • When you have other research projects where you do need to use this step, remember that the sources you find at this point usually do not get used in the final paper.

3. Find Potential Resources

  • There are a wide variety of resources that can guide you in your research process and/or be cited in your final product. Exactly which types of sources you use depends on your research topic, but can include books, journal articles, newspapers, or government documents, all of which can be found through the library. For this assignment, you can also use online sources, although you should evaluate them carefully first. I have listed some databases you can use for this assignment at the bottom of the page.
  • Searching - no matter what type of source you are looking for, the search strategies you employ will be very similar:
    • Keywords - look at your research question and identify the most important words to look for. Sometimes you will need to use phrases to refer to significant ideas.
    • Synonyms - try to come up with other words you can use for the same concepts; not all authors use the same words or phrases to refer to the same concept!
    • Boolean Operators - use AND, OR, NOT to combine your keywords into useful searches. You may also want to use tricks like phrase searching or truncation.
    • Advanced Search Tools - most databases and search engines provide several ways to refine your search, based on the types of sources they provide access to. 

4. Evaluate What You Find

  • Select potential sources based on minimum criteria, such as the C.R.A.P. test. Is the source current, reliable, and relevant?
  • Critically read through your potential sources, keeping your research question in mind as you go. 
  • With any source, it is a good idea to jot down a few notes summarizing what you think are the key points, especially as they relate to your research question. 
  • Highlight passages that could be useful to quote or incorporate into your final product, and take note of any references to other sources you might find useful.
  • With most research projects, you should read more sources than you will actually use in your final product. Reading and rejecting sources is not a waste of time, as you are still gaining knowledge about the context for your topic.

5. Cite Your Sources

  • As you are probably aware, it is important to give credit to the author of a work. Citations are also provided to allow your audience to learn more about your topic by following your research trail, if they choose. 
  • For this assignment, you will be using the MLA (Modern Language Association) citation style. There is a print version of this style guide on reserve at the Circulation desk.
  • Librarians are happy to review your citations and help you make sure they are accurate. For any assignment, bring a list of citations, or a source you need to cite, up to the Ask Jack desk to take advantage of this service.

Find Sources for your Assignment: