English 9002A

Advanced Research Methods

Instructor: Professor D. Pennee.
Fall Half Course.

The purpose of this course is to introduce students to search techniques and 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, 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 such as:

  • 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 and analysis thereof
  • selected readings in interdisciplinary methods and discussion and analysis thereof
  • selected readings in the current scene of humanities research in the corporatized university and analysis thereof
  • reflection on and development or refinement of our own methods, assumptions, and positioning within English and/or Cultural Studies
  • facilitation of the development of funding applications for fall 2019 or winter 2020 deadlines (with a focus on conceptual thinking, method, and research repertoire, not on skills or other work facilitated through the GDPC workshops for graduate students)
  • 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

The course offers an opportunity in the graduate curriculum to focus on development and refinement of search skills in relation to reflection on and discussion of research as a disciplined and iterative process. The disciplined and iterative process of research itself depends on reflection on and identification of assumptions and methods, or, on how one approaches the object of study in one’s scholarship, how one defines the object of study, and what one wants to argue about, or do with, the object of study in relation to participating in and perhaps advancing a scholarly conversation. This is not a course in “how to use the library,” though it will include instruction in specific search skills using the library’s online interface and (perhaps) its physical holdings, and will assess search skills development.

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

  • reflecting (in class and in out-of-class work) on research as a process alongside hands-on practical (re)search skills development in catalogue, web-based, and database searches;
  • identifying and formulating research questions; determining, articulating, and revising theoretical frameworks and methods; drafting work in progress; giving and taking feedback on work in progress (outside class time); creating critical/analytical annotated bibliographies and 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;
  • reflecting on readings in literary and 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) presenting and providing feedback on work in progress in class time.

Required Reading: Few, if any, textbooks will be required. Readings will be made available through the OWL course site to 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, for ease of discussion in class and documentation in written work.)

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 to be specified in individualized learning contracts:  e.g., everyone will be assessed on:

  • development of skills, knowledge, and understanding of search techniques through completion of in-class and out-of-class assignments;
  • the quality of analytically reflective writing on our own research processes;
  • the quality of analytically reflective writing on required readings on matters pertaining to research methods and changing research cultures;
  • the quality of assignments linked to individual research projects (e.g., a proposal for a conference paper; a working bibliography for a research paper in a concurrent course or an expanded bibliography for an IRP, etc.); and
  • informed and engaged contributions to in-class work.