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English 101 Research Guide

English 101 First Year Experience

Try Day 1 of the Literature Review Challenge

Welcome to the Literature Review Challenge for Undergrads!

About the Literature Review Challenge: "includes tools and strategies to help you take your literature searching to the next level. The activities are presented as daily "challenges" that participants might accomplish over the course of one week. However, each activity stands alone and can be completed separately from the others and at a time that is convenient." Adapted from the Literature Review Challenge at the University of Maine).

Why Day 1? -- Day 1 focuses on the need to "Define (ore Refine) Your Research Topic/Question" -- the resources on this day include a video about how to do research on a topic and another about developing a research question.Also, here is a link to a template for refining from a general topic to a research question. The exercise is quick and informative!

From North Carolina University Libraries


From Laurier University Library

Try Day 2 of the Literature Review Challenge

Why Day 2? -- The Day 2 Challenge focuses on how to "Search Strategically" -- the resources and information on this day include a video with tips for effective online search, written instructions for how to build quality searches, and several challenges.

  1. Select one of the following databases or SearchBox
  2. Open the database.
  3. Go to the Help menu if it has one (usually at the top right of the screen).
  4. Identify that database's advanced search techniques. For SearchBox users, run a search and then click on the three dots at the top right of the page and go to the "Tips for using SearchBox" link.
  5. Then, use one (or more!) of the advanced search strategies in the database you chose to find literature relevant to your research question(s).


From Sarah Clark at the University of Manitoba


We have a handout on Research tips and Boolean searching for you. Once you have found literature relevant to your research question, ask yourself whether your research question needs adjusting.

Try Day 3 of the Literature Review Challenge

Why Day 3? -- Scholarly material can be accessed beyond the use of library databases.

Google Scholar is a search engine that links to materials like journal articles, e/books, government information, dissertations, and theses. Results can come from publishers, institutional repositories, government agencies, and other reputable sources.

If you have searched Google and landed on a scholarly article, you have used Google Scholar (!

You can customize Google Scholar to provide full-text links to journal articles available through Mullen Library's subscriptions. This approach will save you time by getting the full text more quickly and it will help you avoid paywalls--when you are asked to pay for articles. Never pay!

Note: not all results in Google Scholar are scholarly so if you have doubts, talk with your subject librarian for help identifying what you've found.

Your Challenge: Set up Library Links in Google Scholar to Get to Full Text Faster!

1. Go to Google Scholar

2. Click on the Menu icon 

3. Click on the Settings gear 

4. Click "Library links," and then enter "Catholic University of America" in the search bar

5. Check the boxes next to "Catholic University - ProQuest FullText" and "Catholic University of America - ViewIt@CatholicU" of America.

6. Click "Save"

7. Now, when you search Google Scholar, you will see a "Full-Text @ Your Library" or "Full View" or "ViewIt@CatholicU" link next to any subscription resources that we have access to through the library!

Try Day 4 of the Literature Review Challenge

Why Day 4? -- You can now organize and synthesize what you have found. Up to now, you have focusing on refining the topic, strategic literature searching, and accessing the literature for your paper. Now, you must organize what you have found in order to make sense of your topic.

Your Challenge: Create a Literature Review Matrix Adapting One of the Following Templates

As you gather the information for your research question, your reading/note-taking process begins. You will need to make sense of your readings as you organize and and learn from it.  These spreadsheets are excellent tools for organizing your ideas. Copy one of these and and modify it to your needs. You can even create your own template to get started.

The purpose of these spreadsheets is to assist you in tracking your research, what you are reading, and your thoughts on each source you found.  By this tracking method, you can easily identify recurring themes, trends, or patterns, disagreements, and underdeveloped ideas or arguments.

  1. Literature review matrix template that can be copied and modified, plus an example of the matrix template in action.
  2. Example of a literature review matrix (a synthesis matrix) that focuses on main ideas while comparing and contrasting concepts from various sources. From Florida International University.
  3. Literature review matrix that can be copied and modified. This matrix has cross-references for examining examples of other works with similar ideas. There is even a column for direct quotations which can help you avoid unintentional plagiarism.  From Raul Pacheco-Vega who writes more of his technique here

Try Day 5 of the Literature Review Challenge

Why Day 5? -- Manage Your Citations. Citation managers can save you time and make citing and writing less stressful.

The benefits of a citation manager include:

  • Collect and organize resources for papers;
  • Keep your ideas connected to the resources you collect by annotating each resource;
  • Create lists of citations in your citation style of choice;
  • And, citing while you write. This feature means that you can insert citations into the body of your text and a reference list will be generated at the end of your paper.

Citation managers work with subject databases, search engines, and Google Scholar. Watch this video where they use Zotero as an example to show you how it's done.


Boston University


Your Challenge: Set Up an Account in a Citation Manager

1. Set up an account in a citation manager. There are numerous options out there (see this comparison chart). Catholic University Libraries has subscriptions to RefWorks and EndNote with Zotero being free.

2. Begin creating/organizing folders and pulling in literature. Once you have created an count in RefWorks, EndNote or Zotero, you are ready to search and import records from databases into your account. Consider the research projects you are working on and create a folder for each one. You can create subfolders that cover different sections of an essay you're writing (e.g., introduction, literature review, methodology, discussion).

3. Create a quick bibliography from your citation manager, in the citation style of your choice.

  • Visit a database of interest (e.g., an EBSCO or ProQuest database). Or, for this practice run, try Academic Search Complete.
  • Run your search and click on the folder icon (with a + sign) next to each citation. Once you have selected enough sources, select the "Go to Folder View" icon to the right edge of the screen. A list of your saved citations will appear.
  • At the right, select the "Export" icon. This page gives you the citation manager options available to you. Select "Direct Export to Refworks" and follow the instructions.
  • Once you are in RefWorks and have imported the citations into a folder, you can create a bibliography by selecting the "Create bibliography" button at the top of the RefWorks menu.