Argumentative Essay Research Guide

This research guide provides a list of resources and strategies that may prove helpful when you need to research suitable topics for an argumentative essay.

The resources covered in this guide include some that are available through the Cypress College Library, and others that are available on the open web. This is only a starting point; for more detailed information come to the library and ask for a consultation at the Reference Desk.

Your research strategy might include some or all of the following:

  • Use reference sources to find an overview of your topic, or to find general background information on your topic
  • Use the library’s online catalog to find books on your topic
  • Use the library’s licensed databases to find journal, magazine, newspaper, and other types of articles on your topic
  • Use the Internet to find credible web sources on your topic

How do I find an overview or general background information about my topic?

Reference sources are a great place to start a research project. You can use reference sources to find topic summaries, overviews, and bibliographies for further reading on your topic. If you haven’t decided on a point of view, an overview will help you focus your research and provide context. Listed below are a few examples of reference works available through the library:

Encyclopedia Americana
Reference Collection (AE5 .E333, v. 1-30)

Encyclopedia of Applied Ethics
Reference Collection (BJ63 .E44)

Encyclopedia of Bioethics
Reference Collection (QH332 .E52)

Encyclopedia of Ethics
Reference Collection (BJ63 .E45)

New Encyclopaedia Britannica
Reference Collection (AE5 .E363, v. 1-32)

World Book Encyclopedia
Reference Collection (AE5 .W55, v. 1-22)

How do I find books about my topic?

Use Cypress College Library’s Online Catalog. You can try typing your search words in the text box, setting the search to “Keyword Relevance Search,” and clicking the “Search” button (this is called a keyword search). Sometimes this method will bring back too many results, some of which might be irrelevant. In that case, try doing a “Subject” search. You can do a Subject search by typing your terms in the text box and setting the search to “Subject.” If you don’t get enough results, try using some of the official Library of Congress Subject Headings listed below:

  • Critical thinking
  • English language—Rhetoric
  • English language—Writing
  • Persuasion (Rhetoric)
  • Reasoning
  • Report writing

If you’re still stuck trying to find and do research on a hot or controversial topic, you might find the following series of books helpful. (Ask a librarian if you need help finding these books.)

  • At Issue
  • CQ Researcher
  • Current Controversies
  • Information Plus
  • Opposing Viewpoints
  • Taking Sides Clashing Views

How do I find journal, magazine, newspaper, and other types of articles on my topic?

You can find full-text articles and biographical information by using these electronic databases:

  • CQ Researcher—online journal that provides reports on many social topics
  • Gale Virtual Reference—for information about a person or a topic
  • Opposing Viewpoints—different points of view in discussions centering on key controversial issues
  • EBSCOhost—use “Academic Search Complete” and “MasterFILE Complete” for articles from scholarly journals as well as popular magazines and newspapers

How do I find credible web sources on my topic?

In this section, “web pages” means the “open web”—web sites anyone can access—not web-based research tools like the databases that the library provides. The open web has a lot of great things to offer, but not all the sources found there are appropriate for academic research. How can you determine if the sources you’ve found are credible? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who created the site?
  • Can you determine if the author is an expert in the field?
  • What kind of an audience was the site created for? General adult population? Scholars? 3rd graders?
  • Can you determine if there is any kind of bias expressed in the site? Is the site trying to sell you a particular point of view?
  • When was the web page last revised?
  • What is the date range of the materials covered in the site?
  • What other resources (print & non-print) are available in this area?
  • What is the relative value of the web site in comparison to the range of information resources available on this topic?

You can try looking for relevant web sites on your own using subject directories like INFOMINE, Open Directory Project, and ipl2. As well, you can try some of the web sites listed below:

Argumentative Essay Topics
This site offers many topic choices. Click on the topic, a thesis statement is provided and web sites discussing both sides of the issue.

IDEA (International Debate Education Association)Provides background, arguments, motions, links and readings for over 150 topics; searchable by keyword.

Public Agenda Online
Contains current issues from abortion to social security. Each issue includes background, public opinion and links to resources and sources.

Public Policy Issues and Groups
Contains current issues from cloning to youth suicide. Each issues links to internet sites that provide more information.

SpeakOut.com
Provides topics with “on one hand and on the other hand” viewpoints (concept of pros and con).

How do I get more help finding sources for my topic?

If you feel like you need help getting started, finding more detailed materials, or if you have any questions in general, please feel free to come to the library and ask a reference librarian for help.

If you have trouble accessing this page and need help, contact a librarian at the reference desk at (714) 484-7069.