Finding and Synthesizing Research for your “Deep Dives”

Today I pledged that we’d spend time talking about finding and reading research that might be valuable for your Deep Dive assignment.  (More detail about the assignment is at the Assignments page, of course.)

When I think about your task, gathering research on a subject related to mentoring or tutoring academic writing, the job starts to break into discrete questions.  Where should I look?  What databases have links to those sources?  What search terms could I use?

You’re entering the scholarship of the field of rhetoric, composition, and literacy studies, which you’ve gotten only a taste of so far in this course.  I don’t expect it will be easy to track down sources that you can use.  But these ideas and links should make your work more focused and efficient.

Where should I look? 

For people who want to see what other writing issues tutors deal with, and how to theorize/research them, tutoring-specific journals have a lot of great insights!  Try:

For more informal and voiced responses to tutoring writing, there are also some good sites on peer tutoring, which cover issues and questions of tutoring a bit more directly:

For people who want to scan for specific keywords or ideas in titles of published articles, the Writing Centers/Learning Centers Bibliography at the WAC Clearinghouse is good too.  (n.b.: WAC, or “writing across the curriculum,” is always a writing center concern because students come to writing centers from all majors and departments, not just English)

For people who want to see what “policy” is (or should be) across writing centers, and why, the International Writing Centers Association has a good collection of position statements:

What databases have links to writing center journals?

What keywords and search terms should I use?

Play with different ones.  Use the sources we’ve covered in jigsaw teaching/learning: Bad Ideas and Naming What We Know.  Check out titles and terms in the “for further information” sections that end each section or sub-chapter.  Scan the chapters for other terms you might use!

Please also ask me what terms might be useful for a specific topic or question.

For people who are working with mentoring and mentorship, it might be more difficult to find sources or ideas you feel are relevant to your job here.  What Kim’s created in the Jumbo and she and I have run for years in ENGL 30 workshops are unique in more than a few ways.  Still, you might find ideas if you look for terms like:

And so on.

Do you have some models of this assignment that I can look at, to get a better sense of what you’re looking for?

Yes!  Here are two from last semester:

  1. Keyword Paper: Deliberate Practice
  2. Keyword: Plagiarism

These papers differ from your assignment in that they were focused solely on keywords, not ideas or questions; and didn’t explicitly push toward deliverables and takeaways at the end (“So what can we do to help student writers re: this issue?” or “What would we want teachers to know?”).  Yours does.

Still, the models will offer you a good sense of the tone, format, and argumentative purpose that a paper like this can accomplish, as well as the ways writers incorporate different sources into a cohesive whole.

Let’s take the period today and work to refine our ideas and resources for the Deep Dive. I’ll be milling around: let me know if you want to talk!

What if I’m still stuck?

Let’s talk in my office sometime soon!  You might also think about how this assignment involves synthesis, or the practice of showing how your sources overlap or conflict.  That’s the major purpose of this piece: to show what research you find in a cogent way and tell us what you think it means.

What would it mean to synthesize the sources you find?  On Wednesday I’ll refer you all to these two documents, Synthesizing Sources in your Deep Dive and Language of Synthesis.


Hey! I'm a professor of Rhetoric and Writing in the English dept. at Chico State. Also disc golf player, indie music listener, and vanilla Marxist.

Leave a Reply