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ENG 112: Writing and Research in the Disciplines

This Research Guide provides information to help you complete discipline specific research in English 112 classes using resources from the CCCC libraries and online.


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Welcome to ENG 112! This guide will help you to navigate library research and resources so that you can choose a topic, develop a research question, and evaluate the information that you find. 

The Research Process

It starts with an idea...

blue magnifying glassChoose a topic that you're interested in

Research is more fun and more relevant to your life if you care about what you're learning.

green thought cloudKeep it relevant

Read the assignment and make sure the topic you choose meets your instructor's requirements.

orange question markFind the question

A good topic starts as a research question.  The research you conduct in the Library will give you the information you need to answer that question. Be curious and open-minded and think of a question that will inspire you to learn more.

Once you choose a topic, you can then begin to learn more about that topic. The 4 Ws are a good way to learn more about your topic. The 4Ws will help you to gather background information on your topic as well as relevant argument and ideas surrounding your topic. 

orange icon with person profileWho

Who are the people or groups relevant to your topic?  This can include companies or even fictional characters!

Example:  If you're writing about video games, this might include gamers, game designers, Hideo Kojima, Blizzard, or even Nathan Drake.

yellow icon of a lightbulbWhat

What are the major events, laws, controversies, or issues related to your topic?

Example:  If you're researching health care reform, this might include The Affordable Care Act, generic drug prices, or  access to care.

blue icon of a calendarWhen

When have major events happened to affect your topic? This can include dates, eras, or even age ranges relevant to your topic.

Example:  If you're learning about school uniforms, this might include 1963the early 2000s, or teenagers.

green icon of a globeWhere

Where are the places most affected by your topic? Which countries, regions, or states?  Does your topic affect urban or rural regions more?

Example:  If you're researching the minimum wage, this might include New York City, California, the Pacific North West, or urban centers.

If you need some help getting started, try the brainstorming map below

Break your topic down into its basic parts...

Identify the Main Concepts

Write your research question down. Underline the main ideas in that question.

Example: How does aging affect memory loss?

Make a list of keywords

For each concept, make a list of keywords related to it. Use synonyms, and go back to your background research to find academic vocabulary and terms.  

Example: Aging, elderly, seniors, aged, growing older, senescent, old age, geriatric...

Identify keywords with...

Academic OneFile's Visualization Tool. 

  • This tool can be used to explore keywords and possible topics related to your research question. The video below shows you have to use the visualization tool for successful research.

Or use this work sheet to guide you:

How to search for information...

You can search for information in a variety of different ways. Here are few strategies to get you started:

  • Link your keywords together using the Boolean Operator AND
    • For example: if you are writing about the impact of the pandemic on human interactions, you might search Summon (the library's discovery tool) with any of the following keyword combinations:
      • relationships AND pandemic
      • humans AND coronavirus AND friendships

AND is the Boolean Operator that tells the search tool that you want information related to all of the keywords in your search. AND narrows your results because all of the results will include all of the keywords from your search. 

  • Link your keywords together with the Boolean Operator OR
    • For example: if you are writing about the impact of the pandemic on human interactions, you might search Summon (the library's discovery tool) with any of the following keyword combinations:
      • pandemic AND (relationships OR friendships)
      • humans AND (coronavirus OR covid) AND friendships

OR is the Boolean Operator that allows you to expand your search a bit, particularly if you think synonymous keywords might be relevant. The parenthesis will help to set the synonymous keywords apart so that the search understands what you want. Essentially, with the help of the parenthesis, you can complete two searches in one.

  • For example: the search string pandemic AND (relationships OR friendships) is read by Summon as relationships AND pandemic [search option 1] as well as friendships AND pandemic [search option 2] - now all of your results will be related to either of these searches. This helps you to capture more information, particularly if one scholar is using one keywords versus another (relationships vs. friendships). 

  • Use “quote marks” around multi-word search terms.
    • For example: if you are writing about the impact of the pandemic on human interactions, you might search Summon (the library's discovery tool) with any of the following keyword combinations:
      • "romantic relationships" AND pandemic
      • "social groups" AND pandemic

"Quote marks" tell the search tool that you are looking for a particular phrase so the search locates whatever you have in quote marks.

Use the Summon Search tool below to practice finding information...

study materials
Now that you have found information, you can evaluate the reliability and credibility of this information. You can evaluate the sources you find by applying the "C.R.A.P" test -- essentially, you are checking whether or not the information you find is reliable, reasonable, and/or credible. Here are some questions you can consider as you check the information you've found:

Currency: When was the information published? Although you can use information that is older than 5 years, it is often a good idea to find more current information. Think about how life was 5 years ago, particularly in your field. What has changed? Does the information you've found take into account those changes? If not, consider finding an article that is more current (less than 5 years old). 
Relevance: Information you find should be relevant to your topic.
  • Does it apply directly to your topic?  
  • Does the whole article apply, or only small parts?
  • How detailed is the information?
Reliability: Is the information reliable? Can you count on it being true? Check for...
  • Evidence to support its major claims
  • Is it consistent with the other information you've found?  If not, does it acknowledge this discrepancy and explain it?
  • Is there any potential for bias from the author?
  • If the information is scholarly, has it been peer-reviewed?
    • What is peer review?

      The process used to make sure the research in a scholarly article is accurate before it is published.  After an author submits their article to an academic journal, it is sent to other experts in their field (their peers) to be reviewed.  Those experts check to make sure the experiment is sound and the results make sense.  If they agree that the article contains good information, then it can be published.

Authority: Make sure you can identify the author of the article and they have the authority to write on the subject. Anyone can share their opinion online--but you're looking for experts! So, identify...
  • How many authors?
  • What are their credentials (degrees, jobs at universities)?
  • Have they written other articles or books on related subjects?
  • Is there any potential for bias?
Purpose: Why was the article written? Can you tell? Knowing what an author hoped to do or gain by writing and publishing an article tells you a lot about how relevant it is for you. Ask yourself...
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the article meant to inform, entertain, persuade, sell, or add to an already existing conversation?
  • What kind of information is being shared?