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ENGL 220: Introduction to English Studies (Kupinse)

Start Your Research at the Library

Lathe of Heaven book cover

For your upcoming presentation and essay assignment, you'll need to identify and engage with one scholarly secondary source (not literary criticism) on a broad theme connected to the cultural and/or historical context of Ursula K. Le Guin's The Lathe of Heaven. 

The resources and strategies listed on this course guide are intended to help you get started.

What is a Concept Map?

A concept map is:

  • a visual tool for generating and organizing ideas
  • a way to explore different aspects of a topic
  • a method for triggering word associations

Use a concept map to:

  • aid thinking at the beginning of the research process
  • create a visual overview of a topic
  • develop questions on a topic
  • reveal patterns, themes, and associations between ideas
  • generate search terms to conduct research

Tools for Concept Mapping

You can create a concept map with pencil and paper or use one of these free online tools:

How to Create a Concept Map

Concept mapping is a great strategy to use as you develop a research question.

Ask yourself: what do I already know about my topic? what am I curious about? what kind of information do I need, and where am I likely to find it? 

From a disciplinary perspective, think about what kind(s) of scholars might investigate your topic, the kinds of questions scholars and experts in a particular field might ask, how they would ask those questions and what evidence they would use to make their argument. For this assignment especially, you might also ask which perspectives or approaches seem most likely to help you interpret the novel?

Finally, consider what you know about the resources available to you and where might be most fruitful for you to begin your search. If you're following up on the scholarly conversation around your topic, do you need to look for work by historians? Scientists? Sociologists? 


The process is simple: start with the subject of your research question in the center, then:

  • In the space around the central concept, write words or phrases for any relevant subtopics.
  • For each of your focus subtopics, add related terms/concepts to your map.
  • Continue to fill out your branches with ideas or questions about types of resources you may wish to start with. 


Do some background research on your topic to help create a concept map. Feel free to consult the Internet, an encyclopedia, course readings, or a librarian to help explore a topic. It may be through this background research that you will stumble upon a gap that you want to explore! Keep revising your map as you learn more about your topic.

Here's an example Padlet I made about the search for extraterrestrial intelligence.