Research Guide: Researching an Argument

This guide will help you research and find evidence to support an argument.

What kind of background information are you looking for?

What information do you need?

Take a moment to think about the kind of background information you need. Obviously, this will depend on your topic. Try to make a list of simple, informational questions about your topic. For example, if my topic is "The Fed and Congress must prioritize decreasing the federal debt," some background question examples are:

  1. What is the Fed, and what does it do?
  2. What is Congress, and what does it do?
  3. How can Congress influence the debt?
  4. What is the current debt? Is it increasing or decreasing?
  5. What is the history of the federal debt? How has it influenced other aspects of our country like the economy, healthcare, politics, education, etc.?

Finding background info

Consider the following two database as a place to find great background information on a wide variety of topics.

Finding topics in online & print encyclopedias

Print encyclopedias like this one, Social Issues in America, are a great way to identify controversial topics. Find the following volumes in the library or click on the book above to go to the ebook version.

  • v. 1. Abortion and reproductive issues - Campaign finance reform
  • v. 2. Cancer - Disability rights 
  • v. 3. Divorce and child custody - Gun violence and gun control 
  • v. 4. Hate crimes - Media consolidation 
  • v. 5. Media sex and violence -- Pornography
  • v. 6. Poverty and wealth - Superstores vs. Main Street
  • v. 7. Sweatshops - Xenophobia and Nativism
  • v. 8. Index