English 9002B

Advanced Research Methods

Professor Donna Palmateer Pennee.
Winter Half Course.

Course Description, Activities, and Objectives

The purpose of this course is to introduce students to techniques, methods, and cultures of research in literary and cultural studies, to develop and refine their skills, knowledge, and understanding of advanced search and research methods through, and to apply their learning in the work produced for assessment in the course.  To these ends, the course will provide a range of activities, including:

  • instruction in Western Libraries’ information eco-system
  • cultivation of an understanding of research as an iterative and exploratory but also disciplined and organized process
  • selected readings in disciplinary methods and discussion
  • selected readings in interdisciplinary methods and discussion
  • selected readings in the current scene of humanities research in the corporatized university
  • reflection on and development or refinement of our own methods, assumptions, and positioning within English and cultural studies
  • facilitation of the development of funding applications for fall 2019 or winter 2020 deadlines
  • facilitation of the development of individual research projects (for example, for a single course during the same term of study, for an upcoming Independent Research Project, for a conference paper or article, or for early stages of the doctoral dissertation), with assignments specific to encouraging and assessing this development
  • development of a cohort or community of researcher-colleagues, of trust in sharing work-in-progress, and of skills and confidence in providing feedback, through shared weekly course activities and in-class discussion and presentation

We will be teaching and learning primarily in the following ways throughout the course: 

  • reflecting on research as a process alongside hands-on practical (re)search skills development in catalogue, web-based, and database searches;
  • formulating research questions; determining, articulating, and revising theoretical frameworks and methods; drafting work in progress; giving and taking feedback on work in progress; creating critical/analytical annotated bibliographies, and/or a research guide for a topic or field for which no guide exists (or for an existing one that needs to be updated); and other related activities such as concept mapping, refining a research proposal, proposing a conference paper, etc.;
  • reflecting on readings in both literary/cultural studies scholarship and in changes to research cultures (e.g., as a result of on-line access to information and the corporatization of research as well as to intervention of new forms of knowledge and understandings of research in the academy-community interface); and
  • (if numbers of participants permit it) presenting and providing feedback on work in progress.

 Required Reading:

No textbook will be required.  All readings (tbd not later than the start-up of the winter term) will be made available through Western’s “Course Readings” service, which enables access to copyrighted materials for which you already pay in your tuition and fees to the university. (This service will also ensure that we are all working with the same page numbers for the readings!)

Methods of Assessment:

Course work will be assessed in a range of ways, with some assignments shared across all members of the class, others self-selected according to kinds of work each student wishes to pursue on their own research agendas (and specified, with due dates, in individualized learning contracts):  e.g., on development of skills, knowledge, and understanding of research techniques through completion of in-class and out-of-class work; on the quality of reflective writing on the research process and on required readings on matters pertaining to research methods and changing research cultures; on the quality of assignments linked to individual research projects (e.g., a draft and polished research proposal, a selected annotated bibliography); and on informed and engaged contributions to in-class work.


While this course is primarily intended to facilitate work for students while they are in their graduate program and for those who plan to stay in the academy or in teaching or in professions that require research and problem-solving, the knowledge and skills developed and refined throughout the course will nevertheless be transferable to other domains and, in general, will be “good to think with.” Indeed, those of you who wish to take the course but do not plan on staying in the academy or teaching might consider making one of your assignments an analytical reflection on how you understand your learning to be relevant and transferable to other domains. Such an activity will ensure consciousness of the value of your activities, as does any research journaling exercise whatever the future of the writer of those analytical reflections.

View the course syllabus here: English 9002B. PDF download