Skip to Main Content

English 105 Online Curriculum Module: Documenting Student Activism at UNC: Home

Lesson Context


The Documenting Student Activism unit sequence uses special collections materials to introduce students to the basics of primary and secondary source research, ethnographic research, and scholarly writing in the social sciences. The unit begins with a feeder assignment based on a selection of archival materials from Wilson Special Collections Library that reveal activism on campus throughout different periods of UNC's history. It continues with a second feeder assignment where students contextualize their primary sources by developing an annotated bibliography with additional related primary and secondary sources. Finally, the sequence concludes with a unit project where students apply what they have learned by writing an ethnography paper that incorporates the primary and secondary sources from their bibliographies, as well as original social sciences research methods like surveys or interviews.

Unit Summary

Genre Purpose Audience Author Rhetorical Situation
history and analysis.
To practice working with archives and writing about archival material in a social sciences genre.  People who study UNC history and campus culture and people who are interested in knowing what the archives hold.

UNC’s history and campus culture.

You will be taking on the role of a researcher in the UNC archives by choosing an event in campus history and connecting it with UNC’s contemporary culture.

A crowd of protestors gathers around Silent Sam

Expectations for Unit Project

All of your work in this assignment sequence will build toward the final project, a short ethnography paper that synthesizes primary and secondary sources, as well as original social sciences research. Your paper should investigate an event or time period in UNC’s history of campus activism and consider how it connects with the present day campus culture and debates, as well as broader historical patterns.

Learning Objectives

By working on the feeder assignments and unit project, you will develop the following skills:

  • locate primary and secondary sources using the library website, catalog, and finding aids;
  • analyze and synthesize primary and secondary source materials;
  • think critically about these sources and develop your own interpretation of campus history; 
  • identify historical patterns and connect those patterns with contemporary campus culture; and
  • connect social science and archival research methods.

Additional Resources

LibGuides, Websites, and Other Research Supplements

Feeder One


For Feeder One, each student will select a primary source from the galleries included in this guide, which are arranged chronologically and address different themes in the history of activism on UNC's campus. Using the bibliography provided with each item, as well as other library resources like the catalog and Articles +, students will find and analyze information about the historical context of their chosen primary source. They will then use this information to write a Primary Source Summary, which provides a brief introduction to the history of their item, including when it was created, who it was created by, who it was created for, and why they think it was created. At the end of the summary, students will also state their intended focus in researching this primary source for the next two assignments.

Instructional Material

Feeder Two


For Feeder Two, each student will create an Annotated Bibliography that compiles and describes all of the sources they plan to use in the unit project. For this assignment, students will focus specifically on conducting archival research related to their topics, really digging into what each items says and what histories it tells. Additionally, students will start to plan their ethnographic research by pitching an idea for an interview or survey that would contribute to their research topic. 

Instructional Material

Unit Project


In the Unit Project, students will first develop their social science research skills by conducting an interview or distributing a survey. In this phase of their research, students will seek new perspectives and ideas to supplement what they have learned about their topics in the first two feeder assignments. Next, students will write an Ethnography Paper that examines an issue in the history of activism on UNC’s campus from the perspective of the key players involved. In this assignment, students will describe the impact their issue has had on students or other members of the UNC campus community in as much detail as possible. These papers should consider both the historical impact of an issue on UNC’s campus and the role it plays in contemporary campus culture.

Instructional Material


Sarah Carrier

North Carolina Research and Instruction Librarian, Wilson Special Collections

Hannah Skjellum

Ph.D. Student and Teaching Fellow, Department of English and Comparative Literature​

Cait Kennedy

2018-2020 Carolina Academic Library Associate

Discipline Areas

This online curriculum module is designed for use in the social sciences unit of English 105 or for English 105i: Writing in the Social Sciences; however, it could also be adapted for the humanities unit of English 105 or for English 105i: Writing in the Humanities or Writing in the Digital Humanities. 

English 105 Requirements

This unit sequence meets the following English 105 requirements:

  • Information Literacy;
  • Primary Source Literacy;
  • ​Quantitative Research Methods; and
  • Qualitative Research Methods.

Possible Adaptations

This unit sequence could be adapted to use a variety of other special collections materials in Wilson Special Collections Library, depending on your research interests, desired learning outcomes, and other instructional goals. Contact the Special Collections to discuss other possible adaptations for your English 105 section.


Schedule an Instruction Session

If you would like your class to visit Wilson Special Collections Library, request a special collections instruction session.

Teach with Special Collections

If you have questions about teaching with special collections, contact Sarah Carrier.

Profile Photo
Sarah Carrier
Pronouns: she/her/hers

Share Your Feedback

Instructor Check-In

Let us know when and how you're using materials from the Documenting Student Activism online curriculum module by filling out this brief survey!

Instructor Survey

Do you have ideas for how this content could be expanded or improved? Share your feedback and ideas by filling out this survey.

Student Survey

Ask your students to share their experiences with the Documenting Student Activism online curriculum module by completing this survey.

Start a Conversation

To start a conversation about how future online curriculum modules can support your English 105 instruction, contact Jason Tomberlin, Head of Research and Instructional Services.  

Profile Photo
Jason Tomberlin
Wilson Special Collections Library

Research & Instructional Services

(919) 962-3765