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FLEET LIBRARY | Research Guides

Rhode Island School of Design

E101: First-Year Literature Seminar

Start your research here.

First Things First

  • Research is a process. Give yourself time.
  • Research isn't just searching. It includes searching, but also reading, digesting, evaluating, choosing, thinking, writing, and probably searching a few more times.
  • Research should change your mind. Instead of writing a thesis sentence and trying to prove it, write a research question and try to answer it.

Look at Your Assignment

How do you know what research you need to do?

This is a very basic question that is NORMAL to struggle with. Here are a few tips.

  • Look at the assignment your professor has given you. Read it closely.
  • Do they give specific instructions for what kind of research to do? This is something you can get easy points for doing right!
    • do you need an annotated bibliography?
    • do they ask for scholarly or peer-reviewed sources? (learn more here)
    • a certain number of sources?
    • can you cite class readings in addition to sources you found yourself?
  • In E101, you're often asked to do a close reading of a text or texts, then write some analysis. Analysis can be shaped by your own opinion, but it's good practice to read and cite analysis (or literary criticism/theory) written by others. It can inform your argument, or give you something to argue against.
  • If you're not sure exactly what your professor wants, ask them!


Make a Shopping List

When you go to the store, you probably don't write down the brand names of the items you want. Starting general gives you more options!

In this case, make a list of the TYPE of things you need and want to find in your research. To learn more about specific types of sources, look at this tab.

Here's a generic example. It doesn't need to be formal, or look exactly like this! It's just for you.

  1. Two peer-reviewed sources (Per Prof's instructions. Look for literary criticism)
    1. Something that I can use to explore the idea of family in X's writing
    2. Something the discusses family in the writing of Z related author as a comparison?
  2. Three additional sources of any type (need 5 total for paper)
    1. Encyclopedia article or biography about my author (for cite-worthy non-Wikipedia background info!)
    2. Maybe an interview with author?? (Radio/video/podcast is OK too, check with librarian on how to cite)
    3. Something else that catches my eye, not sure yet

When your list is done, decide which things to seek first. In this case, I would start with the encyclopedia article. Why? Because it will give you a solid foundation of factual information to start with. After that, you can look for more opinion-based sources.

Collect Keywords

Keep a running list of keywords and important vocabulary as you read and search.

This could include:

  • People's names, place names, names of literary works
  • synonyms or related words for your core concepts
    • Example: family, parents, siblings, relatives
    • Example: depression, sadness, loneliness, suffering
    • Example: you'll get different results searching
      • Native American
      • Indigenous
      • First Nations
      • American Indian
      • "savage" (most likely used in historic contexts and/or demeaningly)
      • NdN (contemporary slang)
      • or specific groups like Narragansett, Hopi, Cherokee, etc

This may seem obvious or unnecessary. But keeping a written list helps a lot! When you start searching, you will have a ton of options to play with.