English as a Second Language (ESL)

This guide is meant for self service. If at any time during the research process, should you feel the need for research support, then email us. We will arrange a convenient time to get together on Zoom, and other platforms.

Step #1: Get background information from handbooks, encyclopedias, dictionaries.

The research process

  1. Get background information from handbooks, encyclopedias, dictionaries
  1. Once your topic is narrowly defined, select databases to find specific articles that have been published in journals
  1. Look for films and images as non-literary forms of representation 
  2. Find books on your topic to gain greater depth and understanding
  1. Write down or store all the references you have consulted to include them in the bibliography of your research paper

Search tips

  1. Begin by defining exactly what you are searching for
  1. Use the advanced interface of electronic databases and Internet search engines to help narrow your search
  • Limit results in electronic databases to full-text or peer reviewed journals only
  1. Use Boolean Operators to connect search terms by understanding how search engines operate
  1. Take notes during your research to keep track of where you have been, keywords searched, what worked and what didn't, etc.

Sources​ of information

Publication Cycle: to find primary and secondary sources of information, use tertiary sources of information: dictionaries, encyclopedias, handbooks. When a researcher publishes material, they follow the cycle clockwise. To find primary and secondary sources, follow the cycle anti clockwise.

Library search

OMNI: the Carleton University Library search portal. Please see Help With Using Omni

Subject headings

Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) use controlled vocabulary to access and express the subject content of documents. ESL/EFL has largely been divided into the following areas. This is a searchable index. Click on the links below to discover the Library's holdings in this area: 

  • Add keywords
  • Use the filters on the left of the resulting screen
  • Typical filters are Available Online and Peer Reviewed Journals
  1. College students
  2. Education
  3. Education and educational research
  4. English
  5. English as a second language
  6. English as a second language--esl
  7. English as a second language--Instruction
  8. English as a second language--Learning
  9. English language
  10. Foreign countries
  11. Grammar
  12. Language
  13. Linguistics
  14. Second language instruction
  15. Second language learning
  16. Social sciences
  17. Students
  18. Study and teaching
  19. Teachers
  20. Teaching
  21. Teaching methods
  22. Video/film

Reference material

  • Encyclopedias

  1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Language Teaching and Learning, 2nd Edition [electronic resource] / Byram, Michael.
  2. Gale Virtual Reference Library: A database of encyclopedias and specialized reference sources for multidisciplinary research.
  3. Oxford Reference Online: Premium: Contains reference materials publshed by Oxford University Press.
  4. SAGE Knowledge Encyclopedias: Carleton subscribes to the 2011 Encyclopedia Collection which provides perpetual access to 27 encyclopedias in the social sciences published between 2005-2011, as well as some other encyclopedias which have been ordered individually. Browse by Content Type: "Encyclopedias" and/or "Handbooks".
  • Dictionaries

  1. Dictionary of the British English spelling system [electronic resource] / Greg Brooks.​
  2. Encyclopedia Britannica (classic 11th ed.)
  3. Oxford English dictionary online [electronic resource].
  • Handbooks​

  1. ESL writers : a guide for writing center tutors / edited by Shanti Bruce & Ben Rafoth ; foreword by Ilona Leki.
  2. Handbook of research in second language teaching and learning / edited by Eli Hinkel.

Step #2: Once your topic is narrowly defined, select databases to find specific articles that have been published in journals.

Suggested journals

  1. ELT journal [electronic resource] PEER REVIEWED
  2. International journal of bilingualism [electronic resource]
  3. Journal of studies in international education [electronic resource]
  4. Language learning / A Journal of Research in Language Studies. PEER REVIEWED
  5. Language teaching research [electronic resource] : LTR.
  6. TESL Canada journal.
  7. TESOL quarterly [electronic resource]. PEER REVIEWED
  8. The Internet TESL Journal

Suggested databases

  1. Canadian Business & Current Affairs Database: Indexing over 1,800 publications, CBCA Database provides more than 700 publications in full text with over 300 with ongoing full text. Broad coverage from a Canadian perspective spans agriculture, business and economics, education, government and politics, health sciences, history, literature, medical sciences, social sciences, and many more subject areas.
  2. Communication and Mass Media Complete: Contains articles and citations for various communications publications.
  3. ERIC: A database of articles dealing with topics related to education. PEER REVIEWED​
  4. Google Scholar: provides access to scholarly literature from many disciplines and sources. Indexes peer reviewed articles, theses, books, abstracts and court opinions, from academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities and other websites.
  5. JSTOR: Digital library of academic journals, books and primary sources.  
  6. Linguistics and Language Behavior Abstracts (LLBA): Contains citations and abstracts to articles and other written documents in the area of language and linguistics. PEER REVIEWED
  7. MLA International Bibliography (EBSCOhost): Provides citations and abstracts to articles and other written materials on international literature, languages, linguistics, and folklore.
  8. Project MUSE: A collection of scholarly journals in the arts, humanities and social sciences.
  9. PsycINFO: PsycINFO is an abstracting and indexing database devoted to peer-reviewed literature in the behavioural sciences and mental health.
  10. PEER REVIEWED
  11. SAGE Journals Online: Provides online access to over 1000 journals across a broad range of disciplines.
  12. SAGE Knowledge Encyclopedias: Carleton subscribes to the 2011 Encyclopedia Collection which provides perpetual access to 27 encyclopedias in the social sciences published between 2005-2011, as well as some other encyclopedias which have been ordered individually. Browse by Content Type: "Encyclopedias" and/or "Handbooks".
  13. SAGE Research Methods: With information on the full range of qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods for the social and behavioral sciences, as well as methods commonly used in the hard sciences, the book, reference, and journal content in SAGE Research Methods helps researchers of all levels conduct their research.
    1. Cases: Cases are peer-reviewed and come with pedagogical tools including learning objectives and discussions questions
    2. Datasets: Datasets is a collection of teaching datasets and instructional guides that give students a chance to learn data analysis by practicing themselves
    3. Video: Video contains more than 125 hours of video, including tutorials, case study videos, expert interviews, and more, covering the entire research methods and statistics curriculum
  14. Sociological Abstracts: Provides citations with abstracts to articles, books and other written materials on sociology and social planning and policy PEER REVIEWED
  15. Taylor & Francis Journals Online: Gives full-text access from 1997 where available to over 900 high-quality academic journals in a wide variety of disciplines.
  16. Web of Science: A multidisciplinary index of citations to articles in the sciences, social sciences and humanities.

Step #3: Find books on your topic to gain greater depth and understanding.

Recommended books:

  1. 500 tips for TESOL [electronic resource] : (teaching English to speakers of other languages) / Sue Wharton & Phil Race.​
  2. The Cambridge guide to teaching English to speakers of other languages / edited by Ronald Carter and David Nunan.
  3. Check your English vocabulary for FCE+ [electronic resource] / editorial consultant Rawdon Wyatt.​
  4. Essentials for successful language teaching [electronic resource] / Thomas S.C. Farrell and George M. Jacobs.​
  5. Goals for academic writing [electronic resource] : ESL students and their instructors / edited by Alister Cumming.​
  6. How English works : a grammar practice book : with answers / Michael Swan & Catherine Walter.
  7. New media and perennial problems in foreign language learning and teaching [electronic resource] / Liliana Piasecka, Ma℗gorzata Adams-Tukiendorf, Przemys℗aw Wilk, editors.​
  8. Practical English usage / Michael Swan.
  9. Techniques and principles in language teaching / Diane Larsen-Freeman.​
  10. The Cambridge guide to teaching English to speakers of other languages / edited by Ronald Carter and David Nunan.
  11. The ESL classroom : teaching, critical practice, and community development / [electronic resource] Brian D. Morgan.
  12. Workplace writing : beyond the text / Stephen Bremner.

Step #4: Write down or store all the references you have consulted to include them in your bibliography of your research paper (e.g., Mendeley)

Writing help

Writing Services offers support to students at all levels of study with their academic writing. This service is part of the Centre for Student Academic Support and is free to students and faculty from all departments.

  1. A Student's Guide to Avoiding Plagiarism
  2. Writing a Literature Review
  3. Writing an Annotated Bibliography

Annotated Bibliographies

Citation management

There are many free citation/document management systems available. The library provides support in the use of some of these tools, but feel free to try any others on your own. We provide support for:

  1. EndNote Basic  (free online version) of EndNote
  2. Mendeley: [app at iTunes]  [app for android]
  3. Zotero:  [guide] [apps]
Content last reviewed: July 10, 2019