I designed this primarily for graduate students, though undergraduates in rhetoric classes might find some of it useful, particularly the sections on archival resources and library databases.
Doing research in rhetoric, composition, and writing studies can be challenging, since there is no single index that fully covers the field and much of the work is interdisciplinary, drawing from education, history, communication, linguistics, philosophy, cognitive science, political science, and cultural, race, and gender studies. Indeed, “rhetoric and composition” is itself a kind of scholarly portmanteau, representing the intersection of common interests between two fields with increasingly independent disciplinary identities. Any research you do, therefore, should include multiple databases, bibliographies, and journals. The following list is by no means complete, but should get you started.
Annotated Bibliographies of Research in the Teaching of English
Excellent annual bibliography from the journal RTE.
Bedford Online Bibliography for Teachers of Writing
Not a substitute for hitting the stacks—it’s highly curated and recent updates have been limited—but offers good grounding in foundational works in the field, particularly from the 1980s and 1990s.
Increasingly robust database of rhetoric and writing research, with broad journal coverage, 1939-present. Contribute and make it stronger.
Rebecca Moore Howard’s Bibliographies for Composition and Rhetoric
Excellent list of introductory bibliographies in various research areas by a well-known writing studies scholar.
Rhetoric and Composition Eserver
Links to various rhetoric resources, including bibliographies. Hosted by the Rhetoric and Professional Communication program at Iowa State University.
Useful online lexicon of rhetorical terms. Compiled by Gideon O. Burton at Brigham Young University.
The following collections offer useful introductory overviews to various areas of research in rhetoric, composition, and writing studies.
Ritter, Kelly, and Paul Matsuda, eds., Exploring Composition Studies: Sites, Issues, Perspectives (MUSE) UP of Colorado, 2012.
It is always worth browsing the current catalogues (and getting on the mailing lists) of leading academic presses; among those with strengths in various areas of rhetoric, composition, and writing are Southern Illinois University, the University of Pittsburgh, the State University of New York, the University of South Carolina, the University of Alabama, Utah State University/University of Colorado, and the University of Michigan. Also worth examining are the CCCC Studies in Writing and Rhetoric Series, Boynton Cook, SAGE Publications, Parlor Press, Routledge, and Oxford University Press.
Excellent way of discovering topics of recent interest or finding potential research partners.
Rhetoric Society of America: Program Archives, 2004-present
I recommend browsing recent issues whenever possible, as this will often turn up valuable sources a keyword search might not. It’s also never too early to begin subscribing to key journals in your core areas of research or to sign up for new-issue alerts.
College Composition and Communication | Home | @UM
Leading journal in rhetoric and composition studies, with broad coverage of research in theory and practice. Published by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).
Journal of Basic Writing | Home | @UM
The term “basic” has become somewhat problematic and contested within composition studies (see Kelly Ritter’s excellent overview), but many scholars still find it useful for focusing attention on students seen as institutionally underprepared, at-risk, or marginalized.
Journal of Writing Research | Home
Emphasis on empirical studies of writing processes and pedagogy
Kairos | Home
A key journal exploring composing in digital environments.
Peitho | Home
Journal of the Coalition of Feminist Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition.
Technical Communication Quarterly | Home | @UM
A key journal in professional writing studies, covering technical communication in a broad range of professional, academic and social contexts. Published by the Association of Teachers of Technical Writing.
Please note that this list is not complete. You might also find useful the UM library’s resources in Education, Communication, English, and Women’s Studies; the WAC Clearinghouse’s list of journals in writing studies, and the list of journals published by the National Council of Teachers of English and the National Communication Association.
U Michigan students should click on the @UM link for off-campus access. Some of these, where noted, offer public access, though features may not be as robust as through campus login and full-text resources might not be available.
EBSCO Communication & Mass Media Complete | Info | @UM
Major communication index with full-text coverage. Includes rhetoric-related journals such as Quarterly Journal of Speech, Argumentation and Advocacy, and Philosophy and Rhetoric.
ERIC | Public | @UM
Major education index with bibliographic and full-text coverage. Includes resources on the teaching of reading and writing not always available in standard rhet/comp journals. Coverage includes English Education, TESOL Quarterly, the Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, the Journal of Second Language Writing, and Reading Research Quarterly.
JSTOR | Public | @UM
A valuable historical database with full-text coverage often extending back to a journal’s origin date, though there may be a delay or “moving wall” for indexing of more recent issues. Coverage includes College Composition and Communication, College English, Rhetoric and Public Affairs, Rhetoric Review, Rhetoric Society Quarterly, and Rhetorica.
MLA Bibliography | Info | @UM
Traditionally limited in rhetoric, composition, and writing studies, but improving. Indexed journals now include Rhetoric Review, Rhetoric Society Quarterly, College English, Composition Studies, College Composition and Communication, and Pedagogy, though full-text coverage may be better elsewhere.
WorldCat | Public | @UM
Comprehensive catalogue of world-wide research library holdings; starting here for book searches will allow you to find items not in the UM library. The subset Dissertations and Theses database might also be useful.
American Memory, Library of Congress
Multimedia digital archival collection documenting the American experience, such as field recordings of traditional Southern musicians, interviews conducted with ordinary citizens during the Great Depression by the WPA, and oral histories of slavery.
Documenting the American South
Collection of primary-source texts related to Southern culture.
Collection of digitized material from university libraries, archives, Google, and other sources.