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Controversial Topics Research Guide

This resource guide will help you begin your research on a controversial topic for your argumentation speech or research paper.

Selecting a Topic - Reference Books - Searching the Library Catalog - Searching Electronic Resources - Searching the Internet - Web Evaluation - Citing Your Sources


Selecting a Topic

Need help generating ideas for your argumentation speech or research paper? Go to Need an Idea??? for suggestions.

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Reference Books

Reference books are a good place to start your research. The following list of books will help you narrow down your topic, examine different viewpoints, and find statistical information.

  • Opposing Viewpoints – REF H31
  • Current Controversies – REF H30
  • Information Plus – REF H30
  • Fact on File Library in a Book – REF H31
  • Statistical Abstracts of the United States – REF HA 202.U5x

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Searching the Library Catalog

To find a book, search the library's online catalog. The following are the various ways of searching the online catalog.

  • Basic Search: Allows you to search by Keyword, Author, Title, Call Number, and Library of Congress Subject Heading. Set limits if you are looking for books published in 2006 or after, electronic books, or video recordings.
  • Keyword Search: Searches the entire catalog record of the materials in the OCC Library collection. Remember to place phrases between quotation marks.
  • Subject Search: Searches the Library of Congress Subject Headings. A Subject Browse search will bring you to the subject heading index that you can browse.
  • Advanced Search: Allows you to search any word(s), phrase(s), and/or name(s) using drop down menus to select specific fields and search operators (AND, OR, NOT). Remember to set limits before you conduct your search.

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Searching Electronic Resources for Articles

The OCC Library has many databases that contain a wide variety of magazine, journal, and newspaper articles, as well as ebooks, multimedia and more. It's important to select the correct database. A librarian can assist you with this task. This is a list of some of the databases that contain material on controversial topics. You may want to search other databases as well. You can find all of the databases that are available on the library's Periodicals and Electronic Resources page. If you are off campus, you will need to log on with your student ID and last name.

  • Opposing Viewpoints - Access viewpoint essays, reference documents, statistics, magazine & newspaper articles, images, and Web sites on your topic. This database also provides a list of controversial topics that you can browse for ideas.
  • CQ Researcher - This weekly publication provides an in-depth, non-biased analysis of the most current controversial issues of the day with topic overview, background, current situation, pro/con viewpoints, and more.
  • Academic Search Premier - Academic Search Premier contains indexing and abstracts for more than 8,500 journals, with full text for more than 4,600 of those titles. PDF backfiles to 1975 or further are available for well over one hundred journals, and searchable cited references are provided for more than 1,000 titles. Academic Search Premier contains unmatched full-text coverage in biology, chemistry, engineering, physics, psychology, religion and theology, etc. This database is a great place to start most research projects.
  • Lexis-Nexis Academic - Search this database for local, national, and international news, business, legal, medical, and government information. Most articles are full-text and from 1985 to the present.

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Searching the Internet for Web Sites

The following Web sites will help you find reliable Internet resources that are of good authority for speech and research paper use.

  • Pro/Con.org - This site has many well-researched pages presenting both sides of various controversial issues.  
  • IPL2 - This site was developed by librarians as a reliable and efficient guide to Internet resources. This site is a searchable, annotated subject directory of more than 14,000 Internet resources that have been selected and evaluated by librarians.
  • DMOZ Open Directory Project: Society: Issues – This human-edited directory of the Web breaks the topics into sub-topics and also provides “see also” references.
  • Yahoo! Issues and Causes – Access Web sites on your controversial topic with Yahoo! Search Directory (path: Directory > Society and Culture > Issues and Causes).
  • Google Advanced Search - Instead of using Google's default search, try the advanced search. There are a lot of tools that will give you better results, such as a box that lets you limit your results to a domain such as .edu or .gov.
  • Mamma.com - Mamma.com is a “smart” metasearch engine. Every time you type in a query, Mamma simultaneously searches a variety of engines, directories, and deep content sites, properly formats the words and syntax for each, compiles their results in a virtual database, eliminates duplicates, and displays them in a uniform manner according to relevance. Also, on the right had side of the search screen when searching popular topics, the metasearch engine refines your search and redirects you to pro/con sites.

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Web Evaluation

Evaluating Web Sites - A quick and useful guide to help you evaluate the Web pages you find for purpose, authority, objectivity, relevance, currency, and responsibility.

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Citing Your Sources

  • Purdue OWL: Research and Citation Resources – A thorough guide to basic research and citing your sources using MLA, APA, and other formats. From Purdue University's online writing lab.
  • Guides to Cite It! – Provides style guides for APA, MLA, Chicago, Turabian, and others. From the University of Georgia Libraries.

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(jk 4/07, updated lc 05/12)