ENGL 101 English Composition 1 (Ho)

Step 1: Explore Ideas, Issues, & People

This requires research!

You may know what you want to write about - or at least have a starting idea. If not, or to come up with a more focused idea, try the steps below.

Step 1: Look for Ideas - Explore Social Injustice/ Justice Issues  

The databases below focus on current issues in our world. Not all of them will work for your assignment, but you will find many ideas here. 

Explore. Look for topics that focus of social injustices and activism, and that interest you. See the images below for visuals.

Image 1 below shows the home page of Opposing Viewpoints Database. 

I selected the category Society and Culture, since I thought it would give me ideas for social justice/ injustice issues. I can go back and browse for ideas through the other topic areas.

Browse by Subject Area for ideas

Image 2 shows some of the topic ideas under Society and Culture. 

The topics are not yet connected to movements or activists, but they are a start. 

Social Issues in Opposing Viewpoints

Step 2: Read a bit about the topic to generate ideas for injustices and activism.

I would:

  1. Start by looking over Viewpoint essays, which are argument essays, to learn about some of the pressing issues in the field and to find organizations and individuals working on the issue.
  2. I would look through Biographies to see if I found the name of a current activist I might research further;
  3. I would browse through the Reference articles to see academic encyclopedia articles with some factual info on organizations, issues, debates, etc. 
Image 3 shows the kinds of sources I found when I selected the broad topic of prison.

prisons info types

Image 4 shows some of the issues and debates on the topic when I selected viewpoints. This gives me a sense of activism on the issue. 

I found over 200 viewpoint essays. This image captures argument essays on problems with prison overcrowding or mass incarceration, the war on drugs, depriving incarcerated individuals of their rights, including the right to vote, and the for-profit prison industry.


Image 5 shows an excerpt from the viewpoint essay on private prisons. 

Note the highlighted names of organizations advocating against private prisons. I can do a quick search of each to see if they might work for my essay. I would also look for individual's names.

excerpt from viewpoint

Strategy 2: Start on the Web

Start with your Interests

Type general keywords that capture what you want to focus on into your web browser. 

  • Try broad ideas like:
    • current civil rights activists OR leaders
    • current criminal justice system activists
    • voting rights activists
    • racial justice activists OR leaders
    • gun violence activists OR activism
    • LGBQT issues and activism
    • environmental justice AND organizations OR leaders OR activists
    • environmental racism AND organizations OR leaders OR activists
    • immigration OR refugees organizations AND change
    • homelessness organizations
    • poverty and income inequity
    • education equality
  • Try more specific searches like:
    • Black Lives Matter founders
    • transgender rights activists
    • "prison reentry" AND  women AND (advocates OR activists OR leaders)
    • Bryan Stevenson 
Browse for ideas in current issues news and podcasts:

(you are not limited to the few starting links below!)


A search of the terms: environmental justice issues AND activists OR activism returned articles on current activists and organizations.

The first return was the article "Four Environmental Justice Champions You Should Know." The activists might be too unknown to work for my assignment, but I'm going to read the article to find out. I find an interview with each of the activists in which they talk about what drove them to become activists for environmental justice and how their activism changed them. I can also research their organization to see what kind of steps they take to change the world. This sounds useful! 

The image below shows one small section of the interview in which one activist says: "I learned there was language and terminology behind my experiences, and a policy impact. I started to see that there could be a different purpose for me." This about how this ties in to Douglass and Malcolm X.

East Yard Communities for environmental justice interview

This Requires Research

Research is a Process

Your first essay asks you to write about a Social Justice Movement or Activist that embodies the mindset, or theme, you identified in Frederick Douglass' "Learning to Read and Write" and Malcolm X's "A Homemade Education." You will then tie that recurring mindset to an issue in your own life.

To find a social justice movement or activist that embodies a specific mindset requires you to spend some time exploring topic ideas, skimming through sources to see if they reflect your central theme, and thinking about what you find as you go. You will look through far more sources than you will use in your essay, but the idea is that research is a process that requires "pre-search" as we figure out what we want to write about.