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SSI2-132: Wild Things

For your essay assignment, you'll need to identify and engage with a variety of sources - imaginative, popular, and scholarly - to explore an original argument about a topic of your choosing relating to the course themes of wild and/or wilderness.

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

Exploring Topics

As you start developing your research question and thinking about what kind of research you'll need to do, you're going to need to dig into a topic, and figure out what aspect of that topic you are going to engage with. As with most research projects, you'll need to learn a lot more about your topic than you can ultimately fit into your finished piece. How will you decide what's most important?

Let's practice together. Skim the article below and consider:

  1. What issues are discussed/pictured and how do they connect to ideas about the wild or wilderness?
  2. What additional sources does this article point you to? Are there other ideas/terms you would research to explore this issue further?

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. 

Finally, consider what you know about the resources available to you and where might be most fruitful for you to begin your search. Are you looking for primary sources, such as newspaper articles? Do you need contemporary news articles or historical ones?  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.