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ENGL 105, Academic Writing (Ceilidh Hart): Introduction


This guide has been developed to introduce the primary research resources for English 105, Academic Writing taught by Dr. Ceilidh Hart. It is not a comprehensive listing of sources, but rather a starting point from which you can begin your research according to your information needs.

Course Assignments

You are required to produce an annotated bibliography that will inform the later writing of a research essay. Assignment details are provided in your English 105 Blackboard course.

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The Research Process

The diagram below shows you that writing a paper is not a simple linear process.

There are various aspects that will affect what you look for and what you find. Half way through doing your paper, you might find something that really changes your perspective on the topic and how you want to write about it. So make sure you give yourself enough time for this.

Four Contexts of the Research Process

Big Picture

  • Identifying a potential topic
  • Figuring out how your topic fits into the course topics
  • Narrowing down a topic that seems (or is) too broad
  • Learning enough about a topic to be able to identify a focus or perspective


  • Understanding the requirements of the task or assignment
  • Understanding how this project relates to your own curiosity, personal gratification, or needs
  • Figuring out how much time to spend on your research
  • Figuring out how to get a “good grade”
  • Finding sample papers from former students, provided by instructor
  • Finding guidelines for paper submission


  • Becoming more comfortable with language and terms used in a particular discipline
  • Finding the language used by authors of the sources you need
  • Translating terms and words from one language to another language
  • Figuring out search terms for use in further research

Information Gathering

  • Understanding what kinds of resources will meet the needs of your task or assignment
  • Finding out what research has been published about a topic
  • Locating full-text versions (online and print) of potential research sources
  • Strategies to deal with overwhelming numbers of potential sources
  • Applying the big picture, language, and situational contexts to finding information


Adapted from: Head, A. J., & Eisenberg, M. B. (2009). Finding context: What today's college students say about conducting research in the digital age. Retrieved from

First of all you need to think about what interests you and then brainstorm some ideas. One technique you can use is called concept mapping or mind mapping.

  1. Write your topic/idea in the centre of the page; draw a bubble around it.
  2. Now create new bubbles around the edges of this bubble, containing all the ideas that you can think of; use lines to connect these bubbles to the main idea or topic.
  3. Continue adding related ideas, using lines to connect them, until you've run out of ideas.

Here are a couple of examples:


Now take a look at your concept map. If you try to do a presentation about the subject in the middle you will probably be talking for a very, very, long time. 

You need to look at the ideas as the side and see which one you like the most. 

So I can't write about substance abuse because it is too big a topic. I noticed that I am really interested in the prevention of it, so I am going to focus on that. Prevention is a narrower topic of substance abuse.

Prevention is still quite a big topic but I am going to think about how I can prevent it in my community which makes my topic even narrower. Maybe even too narrow but you need to start somewhere!

Take a look at this video from Las Positas College Library to see how they develop their ideas.


Here's another example:


Adapted from: ENGL 1050 Thought & Writing Research Guide: Deciding on a Topic, Western Michigan University

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