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Debate Issues & Paper Topics

Gathering Sources

Ready to do your background reading? Here are some resources from PPLD that can help you:

The best place to do background reading on a subject is in a Reference Source. Reference sources are books and websites, such as encyclopedias and dictionaries, which offer broad overview information about a topic. They are a great place to start your research as they provide information on key themes and vocabulary that will help you as find more in-depth information about a topic.

The links and information below are all places you can find reference sources and background reading material.

You will find many types of information sources during your research. Here is an overview of the kinds of information you will find in different types of sources:

  • Books: Books present a multitude of topics. Because of the time it takes to publish a book, books usually contain more dated information than will be found in journals and newspapers.
  • Newspapers: Newspapers contain very up-to-date information by covering the latest events and trends. Newspapers report both information that is factual in nature and also share opinions. Generally, however, they will not take a “big picture” approach or contain information about larger trends.
  • Academic and Trade Journals: Academic and trade journals contain the most up-to-date information and research in industry, business, and academia. Journal articles come in several forms, including literature reviews that overview current and past research, articles on theories and history, or articles on specific processes or research.
  • Multimedia: Printed material is certainly not the only option for finding research. Also consider media sources such as radio and television broadcasts, interactive talks, and public meetings. Though we often go online for this information, libraries and archives often have a wealth of nondigitized media or media that is not available online.
  • Websites: Most of the information on the Internet is distributed via websites. Websites vary widely in quality of information and validity of sources.

Source: Purdue OWL

Anyone can publish a webpage without it being evaluated for accuracy or quality of information. Reviews by peers, scholars, editors, and publishers are not often applied to websites. The following evaluation criteria should be applied when viewing a website:

  • Authorship. Is the author identified? What are the author's credentials? For example, does the site include the author's position and institutional or organizational affiliation? Is the URL for an educational institution (.edu) or government agency (.gov)? 
  • Accuracy. Can the data be verified from other sources? Does the author have an obvious bias? Check the facts.
  • Audience. Is the site intended for scholars, professionals, or students?
  • Currency. Does the website include the date it was created and/or updated? Are the links current?
  • Coverage. Does the site state its intended scope? Is it designed to cover an entire subject, or to give detailed information on one aspect?
  • Relative Value. How does it compare to other sources of similar information? Are there other more accurate or complete sources - possibly in print format or a library database? Even with all of the useful information online, sometimes the most reliable resources are print books on the shelf at the library.

For additional information, check out the link below. This source offers detailed criteria that can be applied when conducting research on the internet.

Finding Reference Sources in Opposing Viewpoints in Context

A database like Opposing Viewpoints in Context is a great place to do the background reading for your research. Background reading is usually found in Reference Sources, which are discussed in the box above. Click through this tutorial for information on finding Reference Sources in Opposing Viewpoints in Context. If you have not yet chosen a topic, the Choosing a Topic page of this guide will help you get started.

In order to view only Reference Sources, you will need to use the Advanced Search feature of Opposing Viewpoints in Context. From the homepage, click on the magnifying glass on the top toolbar. You can also browse topics and categories from the database's homepage.

From the Advanced Search Page, type in your search terms in the boxes 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 searchs, these suggestions are subject terms and headings, which librarians use to organize information and make it searchable. Each suggestion may give you different results.

After entering your search terms, scroll down to the Content Type drop down menu. Select "Reference" from the list. Then click "Search".

This process will limit your search results to just Reference Sources, which introduce background information, vocabulary, important themes, and more.