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ENGD02: Teaching Academic Writing: Theories, Methods and Service Learning

Step 1: Articulate your Research Topic

For your praxis assignment, you'll need to identify a current issue, challenge, or approach in the teaching of writing or English Language Arts (ELA) more broadly. You may wish to use a topic suggested by your professor (assessment, reflection, multilingual writers, writing pedagogy, etc), or you can select an issue that has been important to you as a student of writing.

For our purposes today, we're going to use the example topic: 

The use of peer feedback for developing English language learners' writing

Step 2: Identify Your Key Concepts

Based on your response to Step #1, generate a list of possible key concepts (i.e., words or short phrases) that highlight the main components of your topic. These will form the basis of your search strategy.

Remember: we're starting by identifying ideas and concepts; finalizing the best terminology will come later. 

Step 3: Generate Synonyms & Related Terms

Once you’ve identified your topic’s key concepts, brainstorm related keywords or phrases that are linked to your key concepts. This is an important step for thorough searching: different authors may use different terminology to describe the same concept, based on location, time, and preference. For example, if you're interested in "gender equality" in education, you're likely interested in "gender parity," too. You might also include synonyms, antonyms, broader categories, and sub-categories of your key concepts to support your search.

Key Concept Related Term #1 Related Term #2 Related Term #3
1. Peer Feedback Peer Review Peer Revision Peer Collaboration
2. Writing Composition    
3. English Language Learners English as a Second Language English as an Additional Language



There's no "target" number here for either key concepts or related terms – you might have 2 or 4 key concepts, and some of those concepts might only have 1 related term (or none at all!)

Step 4: Refine Your Search Terms

You can refine your search terms by using additional advanced techniques:

  • Truncation: Using an asterisk to capture multiple endings.

    Ex. Canad* (= Canada; Canada’s; Canadian; Canadian; Canadiana)

  • Phrase Searching: Using quotation marks to search for two or more words together in a precise order.

    Ex. “higher education"
    “English Language Learn*"

Step 5: Put it All Together

This last step will ensure that your search is being "read" correctly by the database or search tool you're using. By stringing all the components together properly using Boolean operators (AND & OR), you'll be able to control and manipulative your results more precisely. Read more about Boolean operators here.

You can use this formula in an advanced search interface, with any number of key concepts (separated by AND) and related terms per key concept (separated by OR) . 

"key concept #1" OR "related term" OR "related term" OR "related term"


"key concept #2" OR "related term" OR "related term" OR "related term"


"key concept #3" OR "related term" OR "related term" OR "related term" 


See it in action in this video: