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Effective Writing (ENL-111)

Library resources that reinforce the research, writing, and information-literacy skills that carry Augsburg students through their undergraduate years and beyond

Generating Ideas for Papers

Many Effective Writing professors assign some version of the “problem paper”: Find a topic that interests you and write an essay that showcases different perspectives on that topic. For help generating ideas for this kind of paper, the Points of View Reference Center database is a good bet. Browse by category (for example, “Earth & Environment,” “Crime & Punishment”), or enter terms in the search box. You'll get a concise, solidly researched summary of the subject — with a bibliography you can mine for sources for your own paper.

Writing an Annotated Bibliography?

The annotated bibliography — a list of scholarly sources with brief descriptions — is a basic research tool for both graduate-level and undergraduate work.

The Research Problem Paper

The Research Problem Paper asks you to use scholarly tools to explore a topic that fires you up. The goal of the RPP assignment is to help students learn to use research as a way to answer challenging questions they really care about using the highest available quality of information. Tertiary sources may be used only as wayposts to better things — the main sources used and quoted in the final papers need to be at least secondary sources.

Here are some topics from previous classes, and suggested resources for each. For things not covered here, check out our Research Guides page and explore the subjects there.

Cultural History

  • When and why did the practice of traditional foot-binding in Chinese culture arise?
  • What were the original goals of the Indian Child Welfare Act?

The library's History research guide at has sub-pages on U.S. history and Latin American history, among others. Look for (some) guidance on researching Asian history in “Non-western History.”


  • What are the costs and benefits of deforestation?
  • What happens when an animal hibernates?

Go to the Chemistry & General Science research guide at and look at the “Hot Topics” pages, which include “Global Warming.” Other resources for exploring current events can be found in the Government research guide.


  • Can psychology explain why listening to music is pleasurable?
  • Does anger-management therapy work?

The Psychology research guide at gives an array of choices here — see especially the Get Ideas & Information page.


  • What are the current technological limits to ocean exploration?
  • Do solar-power systems have the capacity to replace traditional energy sources?

The Chemistry & General Science research guide at recommends the General Science database, among others, as a good place to look for journal articles on hard science. Medical questions have their own research guides that you can access from here: Nursing & Medicine.


  • What happens when people routinely go to emergency rooms for non-emergency medical treatment?
  • What are the effects of foster care on children in the U.S.?

Several research guides provide in-depth help on researching social institutions and relationships, including Sociology, Social Work, and Nursing. For the former, see especially the Race & Class page; for the latter, see especially the Community Health Nursing page.

Researching Identity

You might be asked to write a research paper exploring an aspect of how we identify ourselves — by religion, by ethnicity, by geographic origin, or by interests or hobbies. Researching someone's identity involves ethnographic research, the kind that sociologists do. (You can throw around terms like “demography” and feel smart.) It will require you to find different sources from those you would use for a literary paper.

Other Guides

You will get lots of demographic information from these library research guides:

Zero In

Here are some authoritative places to start researching an identity: