Mass Incarceration of African American

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Library Research Plan

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Please follow this plan. Skipping around and/or ahead without completing earlier parts will make doing research more difficult and much less efficient. Your results will also likely be incomplete and lack aspects of an argument you’ll need to eventually present an ethically-researched claim that is supported by credible and relevant evidence. This library research plan is graded so your answers should be thoughtful, clear, fully developed as applicable, and specific. This plan should be typed for submission.

1. What is your topic? Remember, this is a noun or noun phrase; it is not a complete idea.

2. What are aspects or issues related to your topic? State these as complete thoughts or sentences.

3. What aspect/issue do you plan to focus on?

4. What about your aspect/issue do you find interesting? How does it touch your world? What do you know about it already?

5. Now, use CQ Researcher, Opposing Viewpoints, and/or a reference source from SIRS Issue Researcher (found on the Databases A-Z list on the library website) to gather some general information about your issue. The sources you use MUST be encyclopedia/general reference sources; this means an article from a newspaper or similar genre of source won’t count for this question. While these aren’t sources you will be able to cite in your manifesto or final argument piece, these kinds of encyclopedia-like articles are good starting points as they provide general information, context, potential subtopics, and more. You must find at least two of these kinds of sources from two different databases for this question. Write the citations of the encyclopedia articles, then summarize the article/issue in at least one fully-developed paragraph each. Within your summary, highlight potential subtopics in one color and keywords for your research in another color; there may be some overlap as subtopics might also be keywords, though we should identify more possible keywords than subtopics.

Now that you know more about the issue, answer Who, What, Where, When and Why from the above “mini-research” activity. Do not conduct other research yet. Based on the two general information sources you found above, answer the following questions, including which source you’re getting what information from.

6. Who are the major players/stakeholders? What specific groups have an interest in this issue?

7. What subtopics are emerging?

8. Where is this issue relevant? Are you focusing on the US? Are you looking at other countries? If it’s just the US, is it specific to a certain region or state?

9. When is the issue relevant? When did the situation or event start? Is it ongoing? What is the historical context? Identify kairos for the issue today.

10. Why is this issue important?

11. Using the above prompts and reading about stasis theory, start thinking about a possible research question. Develop your own questions by finishing the prompts below. This will give you several possible paths to take in your research. Keep in mind your initial question will evolve as you get more into the research process. Highlight possible keywords within your questions. You should not simply be writing the same question/focused idea in different ways. We are looking at different ways to look at our issues and different aspects of our issue. Do not conduct other research yet.

How does . . .

What procedures or actions . . .

What problems exist for/about . .

What happens when those impacted . . .

What is the role of . . . in . . .

What is the difference between . . .

What causes . . .

What are the effects or results of . . .

How or why did . . . decide to . . .

What is the relationship between . . . and . . .

What are the alternate viewpoints . . .

12. Now, write your issue in the form of an open-ended research question. Remember, a research question should be approachable from multiples sides. In other words, could someone take another view? Reviewing the handout, “Coming Up with Research Questions,” will help with this step. Highlight keywords in your question.

Does your question meet the following requirements?

a. Is it an open-ended rather than a yes/no question?

b. Is it answerable with credible, timely, and relevant sources?

c. Is it broad enough that you can find enough information?

d. Is it concrete enough that you can find information about it?

If you answered “no” to any of the above questions, rewrite your research question until you can answer “yes” to all 4 requirements.

13. Who are we writing to?

So what? You have a relevant issue and you’ll write a passionate manifesto and a strong argument, but who will want to read either? Identify who cares about this issue and/or needs to know more. Remember, a manifesto is written to a fairly broad and public audience whom we’d like to spur to action.

Which of the potential stakeholders identified earlier need to know about this issue more than others? Keep in mind that we aren’t going to change a lawmaker’s mind, for example, about writing or enacting new laws, but who could we convince should act?

Why does that audience need to know about this issue now? How does the issue touch their worlds?

What does that audience already know about this issue?

What do you hope your audience learns or does from reading your manifesto and final argument?

Brainstorming keywords

Now it’s time to start researching.

First, go through the Research Tutorial PowerPoint, completing the activities. Then, begin your own research. Your search needs to be a deliberate and thoughtful process. We can’t search just any database or Google using just any words that come to mind and hope we get relevant and enough sources. We should have quite a few highlighted keywords in our text above but we likely will need more. We should avoid non-descriptive words like ‘how,’ ‘does,’ and ‘fact.’

Sample research question: How does the fact that Edward Snowden leaked top-secret information challenge arguments that he was practicing civil disobedience?

Sample keyword grid

Who: Edward Snowden

What: Whistleblowing

Why: Civil Disobedience






National Security









Corrupt Practices





Human Rights


Write your research question below again and highlight the important words/core concepts. These are typically nouns and noun phrases.

Next, fill in the keywords grid below with the keywords you’ve identified throughout this plan and others you think of now. We should have several synonyms or related ideas for each concept. Concepts are identified from your research question. Most lines must be filled in.




Now, record your searches below using multidisciplinary databases like ProQuest Central, Academic Search Premier, ERIC, and other databases applicable to your issue or discipline (found on the Databases A-Z list on the library website). You should also use variations of keyword strings for different and even the same database. Use the University Library site to find discipline specific databases and other resources applicable to W270.

Remember, while Google and Google Scholar are appropriate databases to use, your research will fall short if you use only those and not also some of the University Library databases. Some sources will also come from organization websites, government entities, and blogs that you will likely find via Google.

As you search, use “AND,” “OR,” or “NOT” as appropriate. Reviewing the various search tips handouts will help with this step. You should have 8-10 sources listed here.

Keyword string

Database (which ones?), Google, Google Scholar, organization (which ones?), etc.

Author, title, container, and date of source

Genre of source

Remember our mantra: “Research is extremely time consuming.”

Library Research Plan grading comments

Below are the conventions of this assignment that I am looking for in the final version. Each comment, or most of them (some will not be relevant) will appear under a heading, “Passing or above passing aspects” and other comments will fall under a heading, “Below passing aspects.”

· A clear topic has been identified in the first question.

· A clear summary of at least one paragraph about two encyclopedia articles from two databases is included and citation(s) written. Keywords and potential subtopics are highlighted.

· All questions are completed thoughtfully, clearly, and specifically.

· A clear focus is maintained throughout.

· Thoughtful and relevant questions are posed on page 3 in response to all the prompts.

· A workable research question has been developed. Keywords are highlighted.

· The keyword grid is filled out completely and with relevant keywords; an understanding of the need for keywords is demonstrated.

· Varied and appropriate keyword strings were used during research.

· The source grid is filled out completely and clearly.

· Source genres are identified accurately.

· Sources are a mix of genres with 2-3 scholarly sources and the rest a mix of other genres.

· Sources are appropriate, timely, and relevant for this project.

· A mix of databases was used.

· Writing meets academic standards.

· MLA is used correctly as appropriate (citations, ex.).

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