Skip to Main Content

GEW 101B: Writing as a Rhetorical Act


How is the student-scholar research process the same or different from what you've done in the past?

Student Scholar Research Process: Video

Student Scholar Research Process: Step-by-Step



                   A drawing of the research process step by step.

This guide will help you learn what you need to know to find the articles you need for your GEW research papers.  As a reminder, you can always contact a librarian for help.

You will need: your research assignment prompt, a piece of paper, and something to write with.

Step 1: Get assignment

  • Make sure that you know exactly what your professors require for your assignment.
  • For example, are 5 scholarly journal articles required? More? Less? When is the due date? 
  • You can write the most eloquent paper in the world -- but if you don’t meet the professors’ requirements you still won’t do well on the assignment.

Stop! Do the following before you go on to the next step:

Find your assignment prompt for your research paper.

On a piece of paper, write down all of your requirements so you have them all in one place.

Step 2: Choose your topic

  • Your professor will have given you a prompt with an assignment and it is your job to start narrowing it down to a more specific topic.  

  • Feel free to keep returning to this step over and over again as you might want to revise your topic as you continue learning more about it during the understanding and analyzing steps.

Do the following before you go on to the next step:

Write down your general topic. For instance -- are you writing about monsters? College sports? Childhood development? Humor?

Step 3: Understand

  • As you are not yet experts in your field, in order to understand your topic you will need to do background research. This is a step you should do, even if your professors NEVER MENTION IT or makes it part of the assignment.  

  • Background research includes using sources such as websites, books, newspapers, and magazines (in other words sources other than scholarly peer-reviewed journal articles).  

  • These sources will give you a greater understanding of your topic so you can better understand the scholarly peer-reviewed journal articles once you get to that point.

  • Remember to evaluate any source you are using with VQE (Visual, Quality, Ethos) to make sure it is reliable and credible.

  • A good place to find magazines or newspaper articles, which you may want to use as background material, is Academic Search Premier, one of our most general databases.

  • As you are doing background research, jot down topic ideas and possible keywords.

Do the following before you go on to the next step:

Conduct a “research sprint” -- this is where you will go online and do a quick search about your general topic. You will want to spend between 15-30 minutes on this part. Try to learn as much as you can about your topic.

On your piece of paper, write down important key words as you find them. Answer the Who, What, Where, Why questions -- or maybe come up with more questions!

Step 4: Analyze

  • Now that you have a basic understanding of your topic, you can move on to looking for scholarly (peer-reviewed) journal articles.

  • Remember that the purpose of a scholarly (peer-reviewed) journal is to inform and disseminate original research to scholars. Readers should ask the following questions when trying to determine if an article is scholarly (peer-reviewed):

    • Who are the authors?: Generally researchers or scholars in the academic discipline and/or field.

    • What does it look like?: Scholarly articles may include quantitative data in the form of graphs, charts, and tables supporting research; delineated sections: abstract, literature review, methodology, results, conclusion, and bibliography.  It has technical jargon.

    • How are the sources cited?: Scholarly articles contain an extensive bibliography and footnotes which are formatted according to research discipline (e.g. MLA - Humanities; APA - Social Sciences, CSE - Sciences).

  • Academic Search Premier is a good general database for finding scholarly journal articles.  We will go through the steps below for how to do this.

This is where you will look for scholarly articles.

This process is explained in the Academic Search Premier instructions page.

Step 5: Complete

  • Once you have the correct number of sources that your professor requires, as well as the information you need to answer your research question, it is time to write your paper.
  • Be sure to also accurately cite your sources.
  • A good source for MLA citation style is Purdue Owl, as well as CSUSM’s Writing Center, which has made a helpful trifold with frequently used MLA examples.