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ENG 380: Tutoring: One-to-One: Helping Students with Research

Jenks Library

Jenks Library is your partner in research.  It contains many resources both print and online to assist students with any of their writings and projects.  Use the library's homepage as the portal into any resources you might need for conducting your research.  

Getting Started

Topic forming is one of the hardest parts of writing a research paper.  This is the time in which students need to come up with an original idea, develop a research question around that idea, and ultimately spend the next 6+ pages of a paper constructing a solid argument around.  A topic for a research paper is not simply what they'll be discussing in the paper, but is also provides a roadmap for what the reader can expect.  

When a student comes to the Writing Center looking to get help forming a topic here are some suggestions and tips you can do to get them started:

  • Review the Assignment
    The assignment is where it all begins.  Review the specific requirements for the paper with the student.  How many pages is it?  What is the prompt asking them to consider – course readings? class discussions?  Likely it will be a combination of the two.  Make a list of the course readings and the key points discussed in class about the readings throughout the semester and ask the student to explore some particular ideas that they were interested in.  Use that as a basis for forming a topic.
  • Brainstorm Interests
    It doesn't matter what kind of paper students needs to write, whether its a historical perspectives paper or an examined life paper, the more interested they are in their topic the easier it will be to write and research!  Every research opportunity should be viewed as a chance to dig into a topic the student is passionate about.  Encourage students to make connections to ideas discussed in class or perhaps make connections to their major or future career plans that they can get really excited about and actually want to research.
  • Do some Background Research
    The research process begins by "researching broadly."  Start research by looking at high level information about the topic in resources such as encyclopedias or dictionaries.  Help students narrow down a topic by showing them how researching broadly can stimulate some ideas about their topic.  See below for background resource materials you can direct your students too.    

Background Research Material

Start Researching

Research in the NOBLE Catalog and any library database begins with keywords.  A keyword is the main idea or main concept of the topic.  Help students break their topic into 3 keywords to begin their search.  

Resource Spotlight

For students that are really struggling to come up with a topic two great resource to direct them to that can help get their ideas flowing are Global Issues in Context and Issues and Controversies.  Both resources provide topic pages and resources for major national and global issues in the world today.  Issues range from anything to capital punishment, immigration, AIDS, video games, teen driving, environmentalism, and more.  Each topic page contains an overview of the issue and provides pro and con viewpoints on the particular issue.  It will also provide links to a variety of resources in different formats such as academic journal articles, newspaper articles, videos, and more. 

Writing & Citation Resources

Writing and citation reference guides such as A Writer's Reference are great resources for coaching students through the process of writing a research essay.  Note only are these resources full of great examples of citations in each of the major citation formats, but they also have great information about the writing process in general.  

Take for example the "Academic Writing" section of A Writer's Reference.  In this section students will learn how to read and annotate scholarly texts in order to be able to articulate an author's argument, craft an arguable thesis statement that is well supported, evaluate arguments made in scholarly writing, and recognize the different writing styles disciplines require.  If a student is struggling with any of these areas of writing you can work through one of these sections with them to show them real life examples of how to state their ideas and work with information.