ENGL 127 Writing: Social Sciences (Martin)

For students in Aley Martin's section of English127

Browse topics in library databases and online (tabbed - dbs + search tips) [okay to MAP]

Social Science Resources

Browse through the tabs above to explore topic ideas in the social sciences.

Searching Gale eBooks

Browse the academic encyclopedia collection GVRL for good topic ideas

Search Tips

Strategy 1: 

Type in a broad idea, such as masculinity, intersectionality, family, or criminal justice and browse the list of titles and topics returned.

  • Select Subjects from the filters on the right and browse the list of related and subtopics. 
  • Open articles to explore possible ideas for your research project.
    • Notice the encyclopedia title the article is in. That may give you an indication of its focus.
    • Remember to keep a Social Science focus.

(Click on images below to enlarge)GVRL - explore subtopics

Strategy 2:

Type in a more focused search and browse the results for ideas.

  • Example: incarceration AND families OR children.

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GVRL-incarceration AND families OR children


Strategy 3:

Click on Gale eBooks at the top of the database page. This takes you to the encyclopedia level. Limit to Social Science on the left and then browse titles and ideas there.

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Social Sciences Subject Browse in GVRL

Searching CQ Researcher

  • In CQ Researcher, look for the option to "Browse reports by topic" on the menu at the top of the page

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image of a menu in CQ researcher showing different topics to search

Searching Opposing Viewpoints

Search Tips

  • In Opposing Viewpoints, you have the option to look at larger, broad topics. Instead of searching the large search box at top, scroll down to see the list of issues, or topics. 

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screenshot of database page showing how to choose a broad topic to be shown a list of related narrow topics

Additional Current Issues Databases 

Searching Debate-Focused Websites

  • You can easily browse through larger topics on the ProCon.org website

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screenshot of the ProCon website showing a list of topics, or issues

  • 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

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image of an article from the database mentioned

Searching Online

  • Explore the resources below for some great current issues in the social sciences. This is just a sampling of sources.

Explore Topic Ideas

Finding a "Good" Topic

Choosing a Topic:

Research is Inquiry
  • When you do a research project, you start with an idea or an interest.
  • With some research, you develop that initial idea or interest into a topic.
  • As you read and learn, that topic becomes more focused and defined.
  • At the end of your research, once you fully understand your topic, you develop a claim.
  • While you start your final paper with a claim, that claim is the last step of the research process.
  • Why do you want to write about this topic? Will it interest you for the quarter?
  • Complexity: Does the topic lead you to complex questions or can it be answered easily? Does it lead you deeper into the issue?
  • Research: Does this topic require you to dig deeper and look at various college-level sources, such as subject databases or peer-reviewed journals?
In-depth analysis:
  • Is your topic too broad for you to research it in depth? Would you be able to adequately discuss it within your page limit? For example: "The effect of economic recession on Americans" is too vast a topic.
  • Can you replace general or vague terms with more focused terms on your subject? To do so, read about your topic in general, and then as you learn more, narrow and deepen the scope of your discussion.
Does the topic fit the assignment?
  • What kind of genre are your writing in? Does your instructor expect a report, an analysis, an argument or another genre of writing?
  • For this class, the background essay and literature review are reports. You will be reading and synthesizing the research, issues, and conclusions others have written about your topic.
  • The final paper will require analysis. After you have become familiar with what others have written, you will evaluate what others have written and add to the conversation based on your informed research.
Topics to Avoid:
  • Avoid topics based on personal belief or opinion: the death penalty is good or bad.
  • Avoid topics that are simply factual and, that once answered, end the conversation: unemployment figures are at x.
  • Avoid topics that rely on unverifiable speculation: UFOs are real.
  • Be sure to read your assignment to see if your teacher excludes specific topics.