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EN 121: English Composition

About Controversial Issue assignments

Rodin's ThinkerDo you need to pick a current issue or controversial topic and describe its pros and cons?  Do you have to write an argumentative essay or prepare for an oral presentation or debate?  You can start here!

Reference Librarians are here to help you through any point of the research process, so ask us! 

Specialized Issues databases

Don't forget about our many other databases that contain opinion , news, scholarly, and popular articles on almost any topic but don't always neatly package them into pro/con or  for/against sides.

Two databases that cover a large range are:

And for well sourced statistics to prove backup or disprove a point,


Remember to check the date of books, articles, quotes, etc., especially if you need current information for controversial topics.  Laws and regulations, scientific and medical knowledge, attitudes and public opinion, and more, change over time.

Opinion vs. Fact:  What's the difference? Be clear on what information is fact (based on substantiated or verified evidence having objective reality - Merriam-Webster) and what is opinion (based on the author's belief or evaluation).  Bias can be present in both.  An author may include only the facts which support his conclusions as much as he may include information based on his own opinions which may or may not be supported by facts. Be careful to understand the facts and author's opinions for every resource (book, article, website, etc.) which you use for research.

More on bias:  Even if you need to choose a "side" (pro or con) on an issue, exploring and understanding both sides will actually help your argument.

Evaluating websites

When dealing with controversial issues, you must carefully evaluate the reliability of each website.  Examine the credentials and mission of the author of the site, whether it is an individual or an organization, to understand if and, more commonly, how the information is biased.  With this knowledge, you may still choose to use information, even from a website representing a specific side of an issue.

Finding and evaluating websites provides more details and helpful tips on how to search and how to evaluate your results.

Need more help with an Internet search? Ask the Library: in person, by phone or by e-mail.

Selected websites

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