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English 1010/1011 and 1020 : Rhetoric and Composition

The purpose of this guide is to provide an overview of the research concepts, skills, and resources needed to be successful in the Rhetoric & Composition courses at UTC. Feel free to Make a Research appointment with a librarian if you need additional help.

Rhetoric & Composition Research Concepts & Resources

Try different keywords.

-Identify the most important 2-4 words from your research question. These are your key concepts.

-For each key concept, make a list of other words/phrases with the same or related meanings. These will be your keywords!


- Use a thesaurus to find synonyms or similar phrases.
- If you don't know enough about your topic, Google your topic to gather more keywords.

Remember: Revise your search strategy! Your search results can be a gold mine of different keywords, phrases, and concepts related to your topic. Try new searches using different language.

Suggestions for refining your topic:

  1. Start with Google to do some background research and reading on your topic. 
  2. As you read, try to identify different angles or perspectives on your topic. For example, if you are interested in how technology impacts college students' lives, do some Google searches with keyword and phrases about that topic.
  3. When you find an article you are interested in, notice the terminology used and the perspective or angle being discussed.
  4. As your interest sparks, do more searches using new keywords and phrases and narrowing in on specific perspectives. Eventually, you will find articles on a variety of different perspectives.
  5. With our example above, how technology impacts college students' lives, you may find all these different perspectives or angles:
    • Social media use
    • Privacy concerns
    • Impact on face-to-face relationships and interactions
    • Impact on attention span
    • Use in education
  6. Likely, you will only be able to cover one or two perspectives in your assignment (check your professor's requirements.) Once you pick your angle, generate a list of keywords and phrases about your topic that you can use in the library's databases to find high quality sources for your paper. 

Use this worksheet to help refine your research question through guided searching:

Video from NCSU libraries:

  • Read your professor's guidelines closely to be sure you are finding appropriate sources
  • Your professor may allow you to use a variety of source types, including peer-reviewed scholarly articles, newspaper or magazine articles, government reports, etc. Each of these sources functions differently in research.

Watch the video below to learn about source types and their function within research:

Video from UTC Library undefined



Trade or Professional



Scholarly, or "peer reviewed" journals disseminate new findings, results of studies, theories, etc. Written for "insiders" in a particular industry. Include industry news, opinion, practical advice and product reviews. Include news, feature stories, opinion/editorial pieces, etc. Meant to inform and entertain.

Appearance and Format

  • Plain covers that vary little from issue to issue
  • Article sections like: abstract, literature review, methodology, results, conclusion
  • Articles may include charts or graphs
  • Advertising limited to books and meetings
  • May have bright glossy covers
  • Title usually includes name of industry or profession
  • Articles short to medium length--rarely longer than a few pages
  • Often have illustrations, charts, or graphs
  • Advertising for products aimed at industry professionals
  • Usually a bright, glossy, eye-catching cover
  • Articles short to medium length
  • Lots of advertising for general consumer products
  • Colorful photos and illustrations

Frequency of Publication

Monthly or quarterly Usually monthly, sometimes weekly Weekly or monthly

Authors & Editors

  • Authors are scholars writing about their research. Usually affiliated with a college, university, or research institute.
  • Articles are reviewed by a board of experts ("peer reviewed")
  • Authors are usually specialists in the field, sometimes journalists
  • May go through an editorial process, but not peer review
  • Authors are magazine staff members or free-lance writers
  • May go through an editorial process, but not peer review

Readership & Language

  • Aimed at practitioners in a particular field of study
  • Language is often intensely academic, using the jargon of the field
  • Aimed at practitioners in a particular industry or profession
  • Articles use jargon of the industry
  • Written to appeal to a broad segment of the population
  • Articles written for a general audience; fairly jargon-free


  • Sources are always cited using footnotes or parenthetical references
  • "Works cited" section at end of articles
May or may not include citations Citations and bibliographies are rare

Content adapted from Ithaca College Library, Research 101


Keep it Credible

Scrutinize your sources and see what others say to select the best information.

Scrutinize the Source

Purpose & Audience

  • Why was the source created? To entertain, persuade, or inform?
  • Is it sponsored? Who is reading it?

Beware Author Bias

  • Warning signs: exaggerated or emotional language and a lack of evidence to support claims.

Check Your Own Bias

  • Check your own biases and how they influence your judgment of the source.

Check the Date

  • When was the article originally published? Has it been reprinted from another source?

See What Others Say

Fact Check

  • Use a fact-checking site (Snopes, FactCheck, or Politifact) if information seems suspect. Is it satire?

Follow the Evidence

  • Click links or search citations to inspect the quality of supporting sources.

Evaluate the Author

  • Search for the author outside the source.
  • What is their experience and expertise?

Inspect the Publisher

  • Inspect the mission and scope of the site or publication where the source is found.
  • Search for more info on the publisher.
Created by UTC Library 

*video from NCSU libraries:

S.I.F.T: Evaluate Information in a Digital World Fact Check your Feed Stop Do you know the website or source of information? Start with a plan. Check your bearings and consider what you want to know and your purpose. Usually, a quick check is enough. Sometimes you'll want a deep investigation to verify all claims made and check all the sources. Investigate the Source Know the expertise and agenda of your source so you can interpret it. Look up your source in Wikipedia. Consider what other sites say about your source. A fact checking site may help. Read carefully and consider while you click. Open multiple tabs. Find trusted coverage Find trusted reporting or analysis, look for the best information on a topic, or scan multiple sources to see what consensus is. Find something more in-depth and read about more viewpoints. Look beyond the first few results, use Ctrl + F, and consider the URL. Even if you don't agree with the consensus, it will help you investigate further. Trace claims, quotes, and media back to the original context Trace claims, quotes and media back to the source. What was clipped out of a story/photo/video and what happened before or after? When you read the research paper mentioned in a news story, was it accurately reported? Find the original source to see the context, so you can decide if the version you have is accurately presented. STOP, INVESTIGATE, FIND, TRACE

Use the library's Quick Search 


This searches the library's books, e-books, and many articles. Filter results to Newspaper Search to find news.

Click here to access the Quick Search tutorial.


GoogleUse Google


UTC Librarians recommend that students also use Google to search for articles. Using Google, you will find sources that you may not come across in library search results, including government informational pages and data and organizational websites. 

Be sure to evaluate everything you are reading.

What is a database?

A database is a searchable collection of information. Databases have a mix of scholarly articles, popular articles from newspapers and magazines, trade journals, and sometimes e-books, videos, images and more.

The UTC Library subscribes to hundreds of databases. Multisubject databases provide millions of articles on a wide variety of topics. Subject-specific databases provide fewer articles, but will focus exclusively on one or two subject areas.

Follow these guidelines when picking a database:

  1. If you're just getting started with your research or need a variety of popular and scholarly sources try a Multisubject database like ProQuest Central. (Use the Databases button on the library's homepage, see the Multisubject list below the searchbox)

Homepage with databases button highlighted

2. To find Subject specific databases, click on the Research Guides button and select the academic discipline your topic is associated with. For example, if your topic is about social media and body issues, you can go to the Psychology Subject guide. 

Homepage with research guides button highighted

Finding the Full Text & Requesting Items

Some articles have a Download PDF button when the full text is readily available. It might look like this:

Download PDF

If you don't see a PDF button, you might see a red Get It @ UTC button:

Get It @ UTC

Click the red Get It @ UTC button to see if we have the full text in a different database.

If we don't have an article or book that you need,  Make a Request to order the article or book that you need. It's free & easy!  

Using the Databases

For the most part, all of the UTC Library databases work the same.

  1. First, you'll come to a Search screen. Enter your keywords in here and click search. 
  2. Once you've entered your search, you'll see the initial Results screen. Here's where you can filter by source type, publication date, or subject area.
  3. When you find an article you like, click on the title to get to the Article screen. This is where you should see the full article information, an abstract if there is one, and links to the full text and tools for citing and emailing the article.

View this short tutorial for more examples of how to use the databases. 

Common Assignment Descriptions

For a synthesis paper you need to:

  • Identify a broad topic to investigate.
  • Do background reading to discover issues and stakeholders. 
  • Find sources that explore and explain the various perspectives you have discovered.
  • Read each source thoroughly and weave together the ideas to create the final paper.

For an Annotated Bibliography, you need to:

  • Find a variety of different types of sources (scholarly, popular, & trade)
  • Be sure that your sources are credible
  • Pay attention to source bias
  • Be sure to cite appropriately 

Remember to read your assignment sheets thoroughly for specific requirements.

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