Welcome to the first of six posts for learning how to incorporate research into your writing.
If you have any questions or need extra help with your research, please contact your first year librarian, Ginny Barnes.
One of your first writing assignments requires you to do a rhetorical or textual analysis of a text. Your instructor has probably talked to you already about what text you’ll be using.
First, it is helpful to have a solid understanding of what rhetoric is. The Online Writing Lab at Purdue University has a short explanation with some video links that you may want to take a look at to better understand what rhetoric is and how it is used in writing. In short, though, rhetoric is any communication used to change the perspective of others.
To really understand an author’s purpose in writing a particular text, and how he or she uses communication in their writing to try to change the readers’ perspective, it is useful to understand the historical or social context in which the text was written or created.
So, where should you start?
Google. You’ve probably been told many times that Google isn’t the best place to go to do your research. But, while it is never a good idea to only use Google for your research, it can be an excellent place to start.
Why? Because the very first thing you’ll need to do when starting your research is to gain a better understanding of the topic. By doing a Google search, you’ll find entries in Wikipedia or articles on news sites like NPR.org, New York Times Topics, or BBC News that might tell you a little more about the topic AND help you figure out key words you can use to search with.
Key words are important. Keep a list of all the related terms and synonyms (words that mean the same thing) that you find in your online search. Use this list when you’re searching other resources like the library catalog and databases (more about that below).
Now you should have a list of key words and a general idea of what your topic is about. The next step of your assignment will be to use academic sources to better understand why an author created a particular text and the social and historical context of the work–to consider it in relation to the situation in which it was created.
To find these academic sources, you’ll need to use the library website…
First, look for books! Books are an excellent way to gain a basic understanding of what was going on at the time that a particular text was created.Remember, you don’t have to read the whole book! Just try to get a basic understanding of the situation in which your text occurred.
Important: Think about the larger context of the text you’re looking at. For example, a speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. was probably given during the Civil Rights era. Look for books using the key terms: “Civil Rights United States” or “Civil Rights Era.” You may also want to look at biographies of Martin Luther King, Jr.. Imagine the title of a book that your topic is going to be in–you will have to think in broader terms than your specific text/topic.
Here’s a quick tutorial for finding books and materials using the online catalog from the library’s home page (change the video quality using the gear icon on the lower right).
Important: The databases below can only be accessed by Fresno State students. They are NOT available on the open web. To access them, just click on the links below, then click on Go to This Database! and log in with your Fresno State email and password!
The library has over 100 databases that all Fresno State students can access for free. These databases contain lots of information that you can’t find on the free web–including journal articles, magazines, newspaper articles and more. The two reference databases below, CQ Researcher and Opposing Viewpoints in Context, are an excellent place to begin your research, especially to get a better understanding of some of today’s issues or “hot topics.”
Click on the links below, then click on “Go to this Database!” to log in to each of these databases with your Fresno State email and password.
- CQ Researcher provides in-depth, non-biased coverage of political and social issues, with regular reports on topics in health, international affairs, education, the environment, technology and the U.S. economy. Reports include a background and chronology; an assessment of the current situation; tables and maps; and pro/con statements.
- Opposing Viewpoints in Context helps students research, analyze and organize a broad variety of data for conducting research, completing writing assignments, preparing for debates, creating presentations and more. Includes topic overviews, pro/con essays, articles, charts, graphs, statistics and much more. (Very similar to CQ Researcher above)
- Academic Search Ultimate (one of our many EBSCO databases) is one of the largest databases the library subscribes to. It also contains articles from newspapers, peer-reviewed/scholarly journals, and popular magazines on just about any topic imaginable.
We’ll talk more about databases and other resources available to you through the library in later posts, but always remember that books and the databases above are great resources for most topics.
If you can’t seem to find anything on your topic, you can always contact me or another librarian for assistance, or submit a comment to this blog post. That’s what we’re here for!