The ability to research topics and incorporate information from your sources into your work is an important skill both in college and on the job. This course will reinforce the concepts you practiced in English Composition I by introducing you to basic research concepts and techniques. It will also give you a chance to put these new concepts and techniques to work as you develop a final research paper. We will begin by looking at how to build research into an effective writing process. First, you will learn to think of researching not as a requirement for getting a good grade on a paper but as a valuable tool that can make your writing more powerful and convincing. You will learn how to build research into your writing process so that you can add persuasive power to your finished work. Through rigorous practice of the fundamental techniques, you will come to see that, like writing itself, research is an act of discovery rather than a search for prefabricated ideas.
The intent of this course is to teach you how to prepare research for any discipline or subject. We will carefully explore and practice general research techniques and processes that you should be able to apply to many academic disciplines and in your job.
In Unit 1, you will select a topic that intrigues you, you will conduct preliminary research to focus your topic, and you will develop a thesis statement and a set of questions to help guide the remainder of your research.
In Unit 2, you will learn strategies for conducting your research and taking careful notes. We will look carefully at researching on the Internet, but we will also make a point of honing the skills necessary to research topics in a physical library. So that you may begin to make the most of your resources when you start to write, we will explore some of the techniques that scholars use to record and organize the information that they plan to include in their work. By the end of the unit, you will have completed detailed notes for your own research project.
In Unit 3, you will learn how to evaluate and understand the sources you located in the previous units. You will learn why it is important to put significant effort into reading and evaluating Internet sources, and you will learn how to identify and what you need to take into consideration when you use primary and secondary sources. You also will get plenty of practice in determining how and when to use sources to help make your point. By the end of this unit, you will start to understand how to determine whether any source is authoritative, accurate, and current. You will also have an annotated bibliography that will guide you through the writing process.
In Unit 4, you will develop your argument and create a detailed outline for your research paper. We will take some time to reinforce and expand upon the rhetorical concepts we introduced in Composition I. Like the prerequisite course, this unit focuses on how to put your research to work to strengthen your academic writing. We will study how to use the results of your research and analysis to bolster written arguments and support rhetorical strategies.
Unit 5 focuses on how to correctly use style standards and citation methodology. The work in this unit will help you to clearly understand why it is important to document and cite your sources, and to do so consistently and correctly. We will closely examine the issue of plagiarism, noting the situations that can cause writers to misuse source materials, either consciously or accidentally. After completing this unit, you will write a complete draft of your research paper.
Unit 6 prepares you for revising and polishing your paper. We will provide you with detailed editorial exercises that focus on specific elements of sentence and paragraph structure, grammar, and mechanics and which will help you achieve your goal of writing clear, grammatically-sound expository and persuasive prose.
We will use the Modern Language Association (MLA) standards for citation and formatting. Please refer to Saylor Academy's "MLA Style Resources” (PDF) for a cheat sheet to the most useful MLA sites on the Web throughout this course - and any other course requiring you to write, for that matter.