I'm learning IELTS writing. Here is the writing topic:

In some countries, more and more people are becoming interested in finding out about the history of the house or building they live in.

What are the reasons for this? How can people research this?

Then the opening paragraph of writing sample is:

I believe that such curiosity stems from two main reasons, and people can resort to various methods to delve into the history of the houses or buildings they live in.

I remember resort to something is a negative phrase. I looked up several dictionaries, finding that resort to sth means:

to do something that you do not want to do because you cannot find any other way of achieving something

I think here we should use positive or neutral words to express look for some ways to do sth, like seek various methods. Am I right?

Here is the author's specific paragraph to narrate the resort to various methods:

Information about the past of a property can be collected in various ways. The previous owners of the houses and the neighbors could be our first resort; personal narration with abounding dramatic details never loses its charm. Secondly, official institutions, such as the local library or land registry office, may impress us with their dispassionate and thorough records of the buildings, streets, or neighborhoods. A third approach to knowing the history of our houses would be to search online. The Internet, famed for its eclectic collection of information, can provide both vivid personal portrayals of a place we live in and unbiased, exhaustive, and official documentation about it. My previous reference to the "academic community I lived in" exemplifies this well: I gathered the information about the scientist residents via the Internet.

  • 1
    Honestly, I'm more worried about "I believe that such curiosity stems form main reasons", which is nonsensical. It may be a typo for "I believe that such curiosity stems from many reasons", but that's hardly better.
    – YonKuma
    Dec 5, 2023 at 14:20
  • Sorry, that's a typo, and I've changed it. Do you mean "I believe that such curiosity stems from two main reasons " is a bad sentence?
    – Jesse
    Dec 5, 2023 at 14:40
  • It's fine now that the typos are corrected.
    – YonKuma
    Dec 5, 2023 at 14:50
  • The close-vote is mistaken. It's not clear to me that the poster is looking for help with their own writing, and even if they were, there is a clear question about a specific phrase. It doesn't fall under the "proof-reading" close reason; there's even nice documentation of dictionary research. Dec 5, 2023 at 15:16
  • 2
    to resort means to have recourse to. It's fine.
    – Lambie
    Dec 5, 2023 at 16:16

1 Answer 1


While you are correct that "resort to" suggests that better methods were impossible or unsuccessful, that may be something that the opening paragraph is suggesting on purpose.

For example, if a later paragraph in the essay were to say that much of the historical documentation is lost, and to explain that people are resorting to psychics and mediums to learn about the history, then the "resort to" in the opening paragraph would be justified. The use of "resort to" is grammatically correct, and whether it is semantically correct depends entirely on what the writer intends to convey.

If you want the sentence to be neutral in tone, you could substitute the fragment "and people can use various methods to delve into the history of the houses or buildings they live in." Doing this results in a sentence that expresses almost no useful information, though. Without the "resorts to", this section of the sentence is trivially true and mostly pointless.

  • @Jesse The author might have confused it with the similar phrase "have recourse to." That would still be a bit unnecessarily complicated, when the idea is just "they can use several methods." Dec 5, 2023 at 15:18
  • 1
    I personally suspect that the writer found "use various methods" pointless and boring and changed it to "resort to" to spice up the sentence without considering its implications... but without a full essay we can only speculate. Based only on what we have, it can't be said to be wrong.
    – YonKuma
    Dec 5, 2023 at 15:21

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