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ENGL 1A, White: Getting Started with Your Research

This guide is intended for students in Sam White's English 1A course.

Your Research Task

In this course you are engaged in critical reading, thinking, and writing through analysis of current events and issues in American society, in particular around family, education, technology, wealth/poverty, gender, and race. For your research project you will choose an issue related to this course material. Ultimately your goal is to develop an argument that seeks to convince or persuade a reader through a written essay - either  a traditional Word doc or a digital (multimedia) product.

You may already know what you want to research, but if not, here are some suggestions to help you choose a topic:

  • Select a topic that's interesting to you. Students sometimes try to think of a subject they imagine will be easy, but that strategy can backfire. Since you will spend many hours thinking and learning about your topic, why not choose one that you care about? This will help you stay motivated!
  • A good topic also needs to be "researchable”—you need to be able to back up your topic with supporting evidence and facts. A good topic can't be answered with a simple yes or no; instead, it will give you room to explore, argue, or persuade.
  • If you are having a hard time choosing a topic, it might help to begin with one of the general cultural areas identified in Rereading America and do some background reading in The Encyclopedia of American Studies to lead you to a more specific idea. In the search box enter a general subject you’re interested in (family, education, technology, wealth/poverty, gender, or race) and explore some of the subtopics in the list.

You can think of background reading in an encyclopedia as pre-research to

  • Provide a good overview of the topic
  • Help you identify important facts related to your topic – dates, events, history
  • Help you refine your topic by suggesting ways to broaden or narrow a subject
  • Lead you to bibliographies that you can use to find additional sources of information.

Use this mini-tutorial to learn more about doing background research in encyclopedia.

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