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ENGL 1A - I-Search

This guide provides guidance and resources for Prof. A. Henderson's I-Search assignment.


photomontage people around the worldThe I-Search paper is designed to teach the writer and the reader something valuable about a chosen topic and about the nature of searching and discovery. As opposed to the standard research paper where the writer usually assumes a detached and objective stance, the I-Search paper allows you to take an active role in your search, to experience some of the hunt for facts and truths first-hand, and to provide a step-by-step record of the discovery. 

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Your assignment

The first rule of the I-Search paper is to select a topic that genuinely interests you and that you need to know more about. In this case, you will be researching some aspect of Identity (Race, Class, Gender) that you are interested in or most concerned about exploring. 

The I-Search paper will be written in four integrated sections: 

  • Part I: Introduction (1-2 Pages) 

  • Part II: What I know, Assume, or Imagine (1-2 Pages) 

  • Part III: The Search -Two Parts (2-3 Pages) 

  • Part IV: What I Discovered- Two Parts (4-5 pages)  

  • Part V: References Page (1-2 pages)  

I. Introduction:

The introduction of your essay should give your reader some indication of why you have chosen to write about this particular topic. Keep in mind that your essay needs to have some point. What message do you want to communicate to your reader? The message needs to be something more than "I believe…I think…I feel…." The purpose of this essay will be to inform your reader of your (1) original assumptions, (2) the information you found on your search, and (3) your discoveries. 

II. What I Want to Know, What I Assume or Imagine: 

Before conducting any formal research, write a section in which you explain to the reader what you think you know, what you assume, or what you imagine about your topic. There are no wrong answers here. You are basically establishing your hypothesis. For this research project, it is most effective for your hypothesis or thesis to be presented as a series of three or four questions you plan to explore answers to in the following sections.  

III. The Search: 

Test your knowledge, assumptions, or conjectures by researching your paper topic thoroughly. Conducting a phone or face to face interview with someone who is a KEY PLAYER: one who may be able to change or improve the problem you are addressing. If your Identity Topic involves researching is a cultural concern, perhaps you can interview a family or community member who is working towards positive change. A second requirement will be to visit Merritt’s Online Library and investigate the abundant books and Internet resources available. Other first-hand activities that may provide valuable information include writing letters, and/ or making telephone calls. Also, consult useful second-hand sources such as books, magazines, newspapers, and documentaries. Be sure to record all the information you gather. 

Write up your search in a narrative form, relating the steps of the discovery process (this means that you are going to tell the story of what you did to research this topic and what you learned in the process). Do not feel obligated to tell everything (you don't have to tell us the boring stuff but highlight the happenings and facts you uncovered that were crucial to your hunt and contributed to your understanding of the information.  

Your Hunt for Information: This is the story of your hunt for information.  For this section, you will rely on your Journal entries. Summarize your journey from Day One of your I-Search to the finish line. Make sure to summarize how you began your research. What process did you use to conduct your research? What types of searches did you try and how did they turn out? Include your opinion on sources and the information you discovered. Show the steps you took in your thinking/brainstorming. What challenges did you experience along the way? How did you handle these challenges? 

IV: What I Discovered: This section will be divided into two parts. 

 1) This section must be written in an objective tone which means that you should avoid using personal statements such as “I think”, “I believe”, or “I feel.” Save your opinions for your reflection. Where were each of the sources found? What did each source reveal? Did the sources effectively answer any of your questions? How? Describe each source as it relates to your original research questions (listed at the end of Part II: What I Want to Know). 

2) Your Reflection: What did you learn about yourself as a researcher? Did anything about this research process surprise you? Include your opinion on sources and the information you discovered. For example, did you realize you had a bigger interest in this social issue than you originally anticipated? Reflect upon the entire search experience, not only what you got out of it, not only what you have learned, but how this search has changed your life. What do you now know about searching for information that you didn’t know before? To answer this question, you will describe those findings that meant the most to you. What are the implications of your findings? How might your newly found knowledge affect your future? 

 After concluding your search, compare what you thought you knew, assumed, or imagined with what you discovered, assess your overall learning experience, and offer some personal commentary about the value of your discoveries and/or draw some conclusions. Some questions that you might consider at this stage: 

  • How accurate were your original assumptions?  

  • What new information did you acquire?  

  • What did you learn that surprised you?  

  • Overall, what value did you derive from the process of searching and discovery?  

Don’t just do a question/answer conclusion. Go back to the main point you want to make with this essay. What final message do you want to leave with your readers?  


You will be required to attach a formal bibliography, following the APA format, listing the sources you consulted to write your I-Search paper. You will need to use a minimum of six different sources. One of your sources has been chosen for you which is “The Banking Concept of Education” by Paulo Freire. Your research requires you to find five more sources: 1 – interview or survey (for extra credit), 1-book or e-book, 1-magazine, journal, or newspaper article, and 3- Internet sources. (This means that you will have at least 6 sources in your bibliography, and I would expect to see these sources cited in the body of your paper.) There are also Internet resources that can assist you with APA Documentation and other aspects of writing a research paper.  

Keeping your audience firmly in mind will be an important key to success with this assignment. You don’t want to write this up as if it is simply a long journal entry. Think of your audience as freshmen in college or university transfer students who might also be interested in the information you have collected. Remember, writing is a form of communication, and you need to be clear in your own mind who you are trying to communicate with and what you want to communicate to those people. Your I-Search will need to be a MINIMUM of 8 FULL pages. Note: The 8 pages do NOT include Title Page, Cover Letter, Abstract, References Page, or Appendices.