English as a Second Language (ESLA)

This subject guide will assist you in finding books, journal articles, and websites, as well as assist you in developing your research skills.

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


  • Begin by defining exactly what you are searching for
  • Select the keywords/synonyms in your topic
  • Be specific when determining keywords/synonyms and terms to search
  • 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
  • Use Boolean Operators to connect search terms 
  • Take notes during your research to keep track of where you have been, keywords searched, what worked and what didn't, etc.
  • Google search secrets [electronic resource] / Christa Burns and Michael P. Sauers.

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.

Reference Material

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

Suggested Journals

Suggested Databases

  1. CBCA (Canadian Business and Current Affairs)​
  2. Communication and Mass Media Complete
  4. JSTOR
  5. Linguistics and Language Behavior Abstracts (LLBA) PEER REVIEWED
  6. MLA International Bibliography (EBSCOhost)
  7. Project MUSE
  9. SAGE Journals Online
  10. 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".
  11. 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.
  • Cases: Cases are peer-reviewed and come with pedagogical tools including learning objectives and discussions questions
  • Datasets: Datasets is a collection of teaching datasets and instructional guides that give students a chance to learn data analysis by practicing themselves
  • 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
  1. Sociological Abstracts PEER REVIEWED
  2. Taylor and Francis Online
  3. Web of Science

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

Recommended books:

Research Areas

Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) use controlled vocabulary to access and express the subject content of documents. ESL as a discipline has been divided into the following subjects or research areas. Click on the links below. Use the filters on the left of the resulting screen. Typical filters are Available Online and Peer Reviewed Journals.

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

Spell checker

  • GrammarCheck: verify written text for grammatical correctness

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:

Content last reviewed: July 10, 2019