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Debate Issues & Paper Topics

From the PPLD Collection

Thinking Critically: The Death Penalty

The death penalty has existed in Western civilization for thousands of years, and its use has remained controversial throughout that time. Through a narrative-driven pro/con format supported by facts, quotes, anecdotes, and full-color illustrations this title examines issues related to the death penalty. Topics include: Does the Death Penalty Deter Crime? Is the Death Penalty Fairly Imposed? Is the Death Penalty Ethical? Does the Death Penalty Serve Justice?

Thinking Critically: Police Powers

The police hold an extremely powerful role in society, but in recent years there has been increased scrutiny of how they use their power. Through a narrative-driven pro/con format supported by relevant facts, quotes, anecdotes, and full-color illustrations this title examines issues related to police powers. Topics include: Is Abuse of Police Power a Problem in the United States? Can the Use of Excessive Force by the Police Be Reduced? Are Racial Issues the Key to Reducing Conflicts Over Police Power? Do US Police Departments Need Reforms?

Thinking Critically: Obesity

Obesity rates in the United States are higher than ever before, with about 37 percent of adults, and 17 percent of young people ages 2 to 19 currently classified as obese. Through a narrative-driven pro/con format supported by relevant facts, quotes, anecdotes, and full-color illustrations this title examines issues related to obesity. Topics include: Does Obesity Pose a Serious Health Threat? Is Obesity a Matter of Personal Responsibility? Is the Food Industry to Blame for Obesity? Can the United States Reduce the Problem of Obesity?

Future Ready Research Papers

Students start writing research papers at a young age and continue to do so throughout the course of their education, but writing a research paper may not be as easy as it seems. Through easy-to follow instructions, examples, and clear text, student will learn how to write a research paper and cite their sources. Quick facts, activities, and sidebars help make the concept of research clearer for the reader. The glossary reinforces new vocabulary, while Further Reading encourages further exploration into the topic.

Thinking Critically: Animal Rights

Debates about animal rights affect industries as diverse as entertainment, biomedical research, and food. Through a narrative-driven pro/con format supported by facts, quotes, anecdotes, and full-color illustrations this title examines issues related to animal rights debates. Topics include: Should Animals Have Similar Rights As Humans? Is It Moral To Eat Animals? Should Animals Be Used for Entertainment? Is It Ethical To Experiment On Animals?

Thinking Critically: Abortion

There are few issues as divisive and emotionally charged as abortion. Through a narrative-driven pro/con format supported by relevant facts, quotes, anecdotes, and full-color illustrations this title examines issues related to abortion. Topics include: Is a Fetus a Person with a Right to Life? Is Abortion Harmful to Women? Is Abortion Harmful to Society? Are Laws Regulating Abortion Adequate?

Thinking Critically: Euthanasia

The Thinking Critically series introduces students to the complex issues that dominate public discourse and challenges them to become discerning readers, to think independently, and to engage and develop their skills as critical thinkers. Chapters are organized in a pro/con format, in which a single author synthesizes predominant arguments for and against an issue into clear, accessible discussions supported by details and evidence including relevant facts, direct quotes, current examples, and statistical illustrations. All volumes include focus questions to guide students as they read each pro/con discussion, a list of key facts, source notes, and an annotated list of related organizations and websites for conducting further research.

Thinking Critically: Climate Change

In 2013 the Pew Research Center conducted a poll of more than 37,000 people in 39 countries and found that more than half believe climate change is a major threat. Through a narrative-driven pro/con format supported by relevant facts, quotes, anecdotes, and full-color illustrations this title examines issues related to climate change. Topics include: Is Climate Change Caused by Human Activity? Has the Extent of Climate Change Been Overstated? Will Climate Change be Harmful to Society? and Should Society Try to Reduce Climate Change?

How to Write a Term Paper

All successful people are effective communicators. This series forms a complete set of how-to-references that gives young people a solid grounding and practical pointers in all areas of spoken and written communications.

Thinking Critically: Biomedical Ethics

Should physician-assisted suicide be legal? -- Should society allow genetic testing? -- Is embryonic stem cell research ethical? -- Should the United States change its organ donation policies?

Thinking Critically: Gun Control and Violence

The Thinking Critically series introduces students to the complex issues that dominate public discourse and challenges them to become discerning readers, to think independently, and to engage and develop their skills as critical thinkers. Chapter are organized in a pro/con format, in which a single author synthesizes the predominant arguments for and against an issue into clear, accessible discussions supported by details and evidence including relevant facts, direct quotes, current examples, and statistic illustrations.

The Research Project

In The Research Paper and How to Write It, Ralph Berry sets out in clear and concise terms the main tasks involved, in the order in which a student will encounter them, such as: choosing a topic, using the library, taking notes, shaping and composing the project, and writing cross-references and bibliography. Starting from first principles, the author shows students how to get the most out of their library and guides them through the numerous cataloguing systems, including on-line databases, which they are likely to encounter. For handy reference, the book includes an example of a well-researched and well-written paper, with full bibliography and notes. Throughout, common errors and how to avoid them are discussed in detail.

Thinking Critically: Legalizing Marijuana

The Thinking Critically series introduces students to the complex issues that dominate public discourse and challenges them to become discerning readers, to think independently, and to engage and develop their skills as critical thinkers. Chapters are organized in a pro/con format, in which a single author synthesizes the predominant arguments for and against an issue into clear, accessible discussions supported by details and evidence including relevant facts, direct quotes, current examples, and statistical illustrations.

Thinking Critically: Stem Cell Research

Human stem cells were have been known as a promising avenue for research and medicine since the late 1990s, but stem cell research had has been engulfed in controversy. Through a narrative-driven pro/con format supported by facts, quotes, anecdotes, and full-color illustrations this title examines issues related to stem cell research. Topics include: Is Embryonic Stem Cell Research Ethical? Is Embryonic Stem Cell Research Still Necessary? Should Government Place Restrictions on Stem Cell Research Funding? Should Government Closely Regulate Stem Cell Medical Treatments?

Choosing a Topic

The first step to any successful research paper is to make sure you understand the assignment and its requirements. Here are some questions to consider when you receive the assignment from your teacher. If you don't know the answers to these questions, you may want to talk to your teacher about what you are missing.

  • What is the topic? Did your teacher assign you a specific topic or do you get to choose one that interests you?
  • How many sources do you need? Do you have to find a certain number books, websites, newspapers, or magazine articles? Are you required to use scholarly sources like Academic Journals?
  • What are the formatting and length requirements? How long does your paper need to be? Do you need to use a certain font and size? Where do your pages numbers need to be located?
  • What citation style should you use? The most common is MLA style, but there is also Chicago, APA, and more.

Choosing a topic is one of the most difficult parts of writing a research paper. There are so many topics you could research, where do you even begin? Even if your teacher assigns you a topic, it might be too broad to actually research in the time you have to complete the assignment. These brainstorming tips can help you narrow your focus. Also, depending on what subject this assignment is for, you might ask yourself different questions. For instance, a research paper for history class will differ than a research paper on current events. These tips focus on writing an argumentative paper on a current event or issue.

Here are some tips for initial brainstorming of a research paper topic:

  • What topic would you like to learn more about? Has there been a issue in the news that you would like to investigate? Examples: increased opioid addiction, rising cost of college tuition, racial profiling.
  • Is there a political or social cause you are interested in, passionate or angry about? A research paper is a great opportunity to investigate why you feel strongly about a certain issue. The research process can reinforce ideas you already had or it can open you up to new ideas and opinions. Be open to changing your mind.
  • Is your topic too broad? Too narrow? The scope of your research question will determine how many sources you will be able to find. Be flexible and ready to makes changes to your research question.

Once you know your research topic, it is time to formulate your research question. Your research question will later become your thesis statement, which will be your guide in finding sources that support your argument. Here are some tips to help you formulate a research question.

  • Find an encyclopedia article for your topic. An encyclopedia entry will give you a broad overview of your topic, introduce you to the vocabulary surrounding the issue, and may give you an idea of how to narrow your topic. For example, an encyclopedia entry on "climate change" introduces the concepts of global warming, greenhouse gases, and changes in weather patterns.
  • Focus your topic. Background reading on your topic makes it much easier to narrow focus and begin to develop your research question. Your can narrow your focus in many different ways, such as: by time frame (How have weather patterns changed in the last ten years?), by geographic area (Are rising sea-levels a concern in Florida?), or by population group (How has an increase in air pollution effected senior citizens?).
    • Remember not to narrow your focus too far. The question, "Has there been an increase in greenhouse gas emissions in Colorado Springs, CO in the last 25 years?" might be difficult to find enough sources to complete your assignment.
  • Look for Key Words. Have you noticed any repeated words, concepts, or issues in your background reading? Those words will be useful as search terms in library databases and internet searches.

 

  • Example:
    • Research topic or idea: Cost of college tuition.
    • Research question after background reading: Has the rising cost of college tuition affected potential applicants?
    • Research question focused by time period and population group: How has the rising cost of college tuition since the year 1990 affected students from lower socio-economic backgrounds?

A Thesis Statement is not the same thing as your research topic. One your have chosen a topic and formulated your research question, it is time to begin thinking about the thesis of your research assignment. A topic is general idea or subject that you would like to research, while a thesis is a an argument for a specific angle on that topic supported by research.

Your thesis statement is the answer to your Research Question and the basis for the rest of your research, as well as, your paper's argument.

The thesis statement is your paper in a nutshell. It informs your audience of idea that you are going to develop and support throughout the paper. It not only aids your audience's understanding of your topic, but it also gives you something to consult in order to make sure all of your points support the central claim of your argument.

Consider what kind of paper are you writing:

  • An analytical paper breaks down an issue or an idea into its component parts, evaluates the issue or idea, and presents this breakdown and evaluation to the audience.
  • An expository (explanatory) paper explains something to the audience.
  • An argumentative paper makes a claim about a topic and justifies this claim with specific evidence. The claim could be an opinion, a policy proposal, an evaluation, a cause-and-effect statement, or an interpretation. The goal of the argumentative paper is to convince the audience that the claim is true based on the evidence provided.

A thesis statement should be:

  • Precise: Although the scope of your paper might seem overwhelming at the start, generally the narrower the thesis the more effective your argument will be. Your thesis or claim must be supported by evidence. The broader your claim is, the more evidence you will need to convince readers that your position is correct.
  • Debatable: An argumentative or persuasive piece of writing must begin with a debatable thesis or claim. In other words, the thesis must be something that people could reasonably have differing opinions on. If your thesis is something that is generally agreed upon or accepted as fact then there is no reason to try to persuade people.
  • Flexible: Be prepared for your thesis statement to change as you do more research.

 

Adapted from: Purdue OWL, Berea College

Finding a Topic in Opposing Viewpoints in Context

Databases and other library research tools aren't only for when you already know what you want to research, they are also useful for helping you find a topic you would be interested in researching. This tutorial will show you a few tips for using the Opposing Viewpoints in Context database to find a topic for your research.

This is the homepage for Opposing Viewpoints in Context. It highlights timely, featured topics in the middle of the page and categories that you can browse. You can also type search terms in the search bar at the top of the page, or click the Browse all Topics button.

On the "Browse Issues" page you can scroll through an alphabetical list of issues this database has topic pages for. Use the "Choose a Category" drop-down menu to browse issues by category. If an issue says "New" or "Updated" next to it, the information on that page has been updated within the last 30 days. You can see an overview of a topic page on the last slide of this tutorial.

If you know what you would like to research, type your search terms in the Search Bar at the top of the page. Don't forget to consider the suggestions in Thesaurus below. Unlike a web search where this box would show you other common searches, these suggestions are subject terms and headings, which librarians use to organize information and make it searchable. In this database, suggestions in Bold/Italics are subjects that have Topic Pages. Click to the next slide for an overview of what is included on a topic page.

In Opposing Viewpoints in Context, Topic Pages  collect many sources surrounding one issue for easy browsing. There is a topic overview at the top of the page, a breakdown of what kinds of sources are included in the topic page on the upper-right, and the viewpoints section where authors argue for different sides of an issue. The viewpoints section can be a great to find out how you feel about an issue in order to further your research.