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ENGL 105, Academic Writing (Karen Selesky): Home


This guide has been developed as a general introduction to resources for English 105, Academic Writing taught by Dr Karen Selesky. 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.

You may also want to consult other libguides like:

Dr Selesky's assignment details

Scholarly or Not?

Not all journals are created equal, and not all will be appropriate for every research need. Here are some characteristics of scholarly journals:

  • the authors are researchers or scholars - articles will typically include the author's institutional affiliation;
  • the articles reflect an-depth analysis of topics or report original research (theoretical, experimental or applied);
  • articles are often lengthy, and book reviews, if included, are substantial;
  • the language used reflects the technical vocabulary of the discipline (i.e., jargon); and
  • many are refereed or peer-reviewed.

For more information and additional characteristics, see Types of Periodicals.

Books are rarely peer-reviewed, which can make it more challenging to determine scholarly status. However, the following are common characteristics of scholarly books:

  • the authors or editors are researchers or scholars (you might need to look inside the book for information about the author, or you can try a Google search);
  • the publisher is often a university press (e.g., Oxford University Press, University of California Press) or an academic society (e.g., American Anthropological Association); and/or
  • the language used reflects the technical vocabulary of the discipline (i.e., jargon).

Term Research Essay highlights

LENGTH: Your paper will be approximately 5-6 pages in a size 12 Times New Roman font. 

Social justice is the relation of balance between individuals and society measured by comparing distribution of wealth differences, from personal liberties to fair privilege opportunities. In the current global grassroots movements for social justice, the emphasis has been on the breaking of barriers for social mobility, the creation of safety nets and economic justice.

Choose a work of protest art related to a particular social justice issue and write a research paper that frames this issue within our community. You might think of something like the #BLM art, the mural of George Floyd. Googling “protest art” will give you lots of examples for different issues. You might also think of photographs: Greta Thunberg and her weekly school strike for climate change or the 215 shoes on the Vancouver Gallery steps to represent the Residential School children.

Although the point of the art is not to analyze it per se, but to use it as a jumping off point to research and explore the social justice issue of your choice, an analysis might make for an effective introduction. Information is not just delivered in essay form; the art can help you think “outside the box.”

This assignment requires you first, to conduct some research for your topic and develop a working thesis and annotated bibliography, second, to analyze that research, and third to write a focused, well organized, technically competent, and informative research-based argument, for a university-based general audience of at least the level of education of your classmates in draft form.

Sources: For your research essay you will be required to use 4-6 sources to support your ideas and information; 2 of those sources should be scholarly articles.

See the document linked in the box titled "Dr Selesky's assignment details" on the left for more information.

The Search for Context

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

Creating a Concept Map

One of the best ways to start exploring any topic is to create a concept map. A concept map is a visual diagram that can help you:

  • capture what you already know about a topic;
  • identify a variety of perspectives on a topic;
  • formulate research questions; and
  • narrow or broaden your topic.

This video from the UCLA Library describes the process of creating a concept map.

Some key points from the video:

  • Use questions to help fill out your concept map:
    • Who...
    • What...
    • When...
    • Where...
    • Why...
    • To what extent...
    • Under what circumstances...
  • Consider different thematic aspects of your topic:
    • Social or cultural aspects
    • Geographic areas
    • Groups of people
    • Time spans or historical events
  • And finally...
    • Ask specific questions
    • Let your curiosity lead the way
    • Use the concept map to identify or select key words and concepts

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