Research Guide: Researching an Argument

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

Finding topics in 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.

  • 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

Do you want an international perspective? Try using the book "Global Social Issues" instead:

Arguable Topics

Finding a Topic

There's no shortage of arguable topics in the world, and  databases are great places to look for topics.

Two of the library's databases, CQ Researcher and Opposing Viewpoints provide excellent topic lists as shown in the images and instructions below.


Browsing topics in CQ Researcher

As shown in the image below, you can find topic ideas in this database by taking the following steps:

  • Browse topic ideas by general area using the "Browse Topics" option on the menu.
    • From there, you can click on a topic for more specific sub-topics and see reports.
  • You can also use the "Hot Topics" list to the right and browse through reports

(click in image to enlarge)

screenshot of the CQ Researcher database search page, pointing to the option to search by topic rather than just searching by a keyword. Here you can see a list of topics


Browsing topics in Opposing Viewpoints

As shown in the image below, you can find topic ideas in this database by taking the following steps:

  • Select "Issues" from the menu at the top of the Opposing Viewpoints homepage. From there, you should see a list of many possible "arguable topics"

(click in image to enlarge)screenshot of the database page showing to click on "broswe issues" from the menu near the top

Finding topics in the news

Browse Topic Ideas in Newspapers

Newspapers are often great places to find controversial topics. The image below, showing the cover page of the New York Times, is a great example of how headlines can be turned into arguable topics. Look at these examples taken from the headlines: 

  • Headline:U.N. Security Counsel Passes New Sanctions Against Iran
    • Arguable topic:  The U.S. should implement sanctions against Iran
  • Headline: Bernake Says the Federal Debt is 'Unsustainable'
    • Arguable topic: The Fed and Congress must prioritize decreasing the federal debt
  • Headline: Democrat in Chief?
    • Arguable topic: The President's job is not to lead the Democratic party

(click on image to enlarge)

image of the NY Times online website, with notes, written in the text before this image, pointing out headlines

Using Newseum

You can also find newspapers using the source called "Newseum" It's a good place to start looking for research inspiration from the headlines of today's newspapers.

Find a topic on the web: ProCon

Using ProCon.org

ProCon.org provides short articles on today's current controversial topics. Use the link below to access the website and see a list of topics

(click on image to enlarge)

A screenshot of the ProCon.org website homepage

Find a topic on the web: Debateabse

Using Debateabase

This debate database, Debateabase, is a good way to look for controversial topics in today's world. Use the link below to access the website and see a list of topics

(click on image to enlarge)

image of an article from the database mentioned