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First Year English Research Guide

Use this guide when working on assignments for English 1301 & 1302.

Types of Sources

Popular: Sources published in newspapers and magazines intended for general audience. 

Scholarly: Well researched sources that have been written for scholars, students, and experts in the discipline area. 

Peer Reviewed / Refereed: Articles that have been evaluated by other professionals in the field to check for accuracy and adherence to disciplinary standards.

Know the Difference

Article: Articles are the individual "stories" published in a newspaper, magazine, or journal. For example, the story about the Rangers published in Sports Illustrated is an article.

Journal: Journals contain several articles published about a specific subject area and are typically scholarly. For example, the article about stem cells was published in the Journal of Medical Ethics.

Database: Databases index millions of articles published in thousands of newspapers, magazines, and journals. There are databases that index sources from many different discipline areas, while others are subject specific. For example, the New York Times can be accessed by searching the database Lexis Nexis Academic.

Write Your Paper

Selecting a Topic

Selecting a topic can be tricky business. No only do you need to choose a topic that meets assignment requirements, you also want to select something that is interesting enough to keep you engaged for however long it takes to complete the project.

Things to Consider:

• Do you understand your assignment?

• What is the purpose of the assignment?

• What length is the assignment and how much time do you have to complete it?

• What resources will be required outside of class readings?

Topic Brainstorming Questions

• Is there anything that has been discussed in class about which you would like to learn more?

• Are there any social or political issues about which you have strong opinions?

• Are there topics that your frequently discuss with friends and/or family?

• Do you have any personal issues or problems about which you would like to learn more?

What is a Thesis Statement?

A thesis is typically a one sentence statement in the first paragraph, or beginning, of your project that states your purpose. Thesis statements should be arguable, specific, detailed, and meaningful.


Bad Thesis 1: War is inevitable.
This thesis statement is extremely broad.

Bad Thesis 2: The United States has 50 states.
This thesis statement is not arguable. If anyone disagreed with you, they would be wrong.

Bad Thesis 3: Snickers are the best candy bar ever!
This thesis statement is not meaningful.

Good Thesis: Due to its "abstinence only" sex education policy in Africa, the United States has an obligation to African children whose parents have contracted AIDS since this policy's enforcement.

Narrowing a Topic into a Thesis

Narrowing a topic requires you to be more specific about your research interest. If you are unsure about how to narrow your topic, ask the reporters’ questions “Who,” “What,” “Where,” “When,” and “Why.”

For Example:
You want to write a paper about the AIDS epidemic. The topic “AIDS” is too broad to address in your paper. Ask the reporters’ questions to narrow your topic.

Who? Who is the specific person/group to which you would like to limit your research?
• United States government

What? What specific aspect of the broad topic idea is interesting to you?
• Effects on children with HIV positive parents

Where? To which specific geographic area or region would you like to limit your research?
• Africa

When? On what time period would you like your research focused?
• The present

Why? Why do you think this is an important/interesting topic?
• Organizations funded by the US providing "abstinence only" sex education

Based on your answers to the reporters’ questions, formulate a focused research topic.
Due to its "abstinence only" sex education policy in Africa, the United States has an obligation to African children whose parents have contracted AIDS since this policy's enforcement.


Logos uses reason and logic to support a claim. Logos appeals include:

• Physical evidence and records

• Observation, testimony, and statistics

• Logic, common sense, and probability

• Certainty and accuracy


Ethos uses the authority of the speaker or author to reinforce the strength of the appeal. Ethos appeals include:

• Credentials

• Personal impressions


Pathos plays on our emotions to strengthen a claim. Pathos appeals include:

• Naming emotions

• Evoking sensations

• Using graphics

What are Reasons and Evidence?

Both reasons and claims support your claim or thesis. Reasons act as the foundation for your claim, while evidence is needed to develop the reasons.

For example:

• All high school students with a GPA above 3.5 should be able to go to college for free.
• Many academically talented students are having to forgo college because they cannot afford the cost of tuition.
• A survey conducted by This is Only An Example Institute found that 20% of high school students with GPAs above 3.5 chose not to attend a 4-year college due to the cost.

How Do I Incorporate Evidence?

Remember that when writing a paper you are entering into a conversation that is already ongoing. Acknowledging this conversation by referencing others' ideas and research is important. When incorporating others' ideas and evidence into your own work you have a few different options.

A quote reproduces the original text exactly. Quotes should be integrated into your work by introducing the concept or author. This can establish significance and authority.

A paraphrase is putting a quote into your own words, but it should not be a summary. The same amount of content should be in the original text as the paraphrase. Paraphrases should be introduced to differentiate your ideas from that of the source you are paraphrasing.

When summarizing a source, you should reword and explain a section of the original source in fewer words. Just as with paraphrasing and quoting, it is important to introduce the original source.

After quoting, paraphrasing, or summarizing evidence it is important to explain how the evidence supports your reason or claim.