English 110 – Barber – Debate Topics

President Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter on television during 1st presidential debate in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Library of Congress)

About this guide

This guide provides students with suggested sources for their class debate research. Your search for information can include books, periodical articles, and credible internet resources.

Use the tabs above to navigate through the guide.

Your Assignment

Review the research materials that both sides collected and select at least four: all must be from reputable and varied sources. Be sure to include sources that consider the opposing position. Two of the sources must be from print sources (scholarly journals, magazines, newspapers, and books).


  • Charlie Hebdo (Freedom of the Press/Speech vs. Religion)
  • Keystone Pipeline (Jobs vs. Environment)
  • Should college athletes be paid to play?

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The words you use to describe a topic may be different from the words used by the library catalog and databases. If you have trouble finding information on your topic, ask a librarian for help choosing the best keywords to use in your search. Or, try some of the search words listed below.

Freedom of the Press/Speech

  • Freedom of speech
  • Freedom of expression
  • Freedom of the press
  • United States — Constitution — 1st Amendment
  • Censorship
  • Toleration — Religious aspects

Jobs vs. Environment

  • Pipelines
  • Petroleum pipelines
  • Keystone XL Pipeline Project
  • Petroleum industry and trade Environmental aspects
  • Business & Economics — Development — Sustainable development
  • Job creation
  • Labor market — United States
  • Unemployment — United States

College Athletes

  • College sports — Economic aspects — United States
  • College athletes — United States — Economic conditions
  • Sports moral and ethical aspects

Reference Sources

References sources are a good place to get background information on your topic.

Print Reference Sources

These resources are available in the Luria Library Reference section.

  • Encyclopedia of the American Constitution — R 342.73 L668e 2000
  • Encyclopedia of Contemporary American Social Issues — R 306.0973 S528e 2011

Online Reference Sources

These reference sources are available online. If you are off campus, you will need to log in with your Pipeline account information:

  • Credo Reference Contains the full text of nearly 600 encyclopedias, dictionaries, bilingual dictionaries, and other reference books.


The library’s collection includes both print books and online ebooks. Search the library catalog, or ask a librarian for help finding books on your topic. Your search results will include articles as well. Limit to books by choosing the appropriate box from the menu to the left of the results.


Periodical articles usually provide the most current information on a topic. Journal articles are more scholarly while magazine articles tend to be shorter and more general. Newspaper articles are the most current of the three periodical sources and another good source of information. Rely heavily on nationally recognized magazines and newspapers because their information is up to date and authoritative. For example: The New York Times or Los Angeles Times, The Christian Science Monitor, The Wall Street Journal, The New Republic, The Nation, The New Yorker Magazine.

To find articles on your topic, use one of the online databases listed below. These databases usually provide full-text articles. To access databases from off campus you will need to log in with your pipeline account number and password.

  • Academic Search Premier Includes articles from both scholarly and popular sources in all subject areas.
  • Newspapers Several databases with searchable full-text versions of many of the largest papers.

These databases provide pro/con information on current and controversial topics:

  • CQ Researcher Contains single-themed reports on issues in the news. Provides in-depth, unbiased coverage of both sides of controversial issues related to health, social trends, criminal justice, international affairs, education, the environment, technology, and the economy.
  • Opposing Viewpoints Provides opinions and other information on hundreds of today’s hottest social issues. Includes continuously updated viewpoint articles, topic overviews, full-text magazines, academic journals, news articles, primary source documents, statistics, images, videos, audio files and links to vetted websites.


Explore a podcast:


Explore your topic in a TEDTalk:

Evaluating Websites

Figuring out whether the information you find online is credible enough for college research can be challenging. Use the P.R.O.V.E.N. Test for Evaluating Sources to determine whether the sources you find are credible:

  • Purpose: The reason the information exists. Is the purpose to sell, to entertain, to inform, to teach, or to persuade? Do the authors and publishers/sponsors make their purposes clear? Is this source designed for general readers or academic readers?
  • Relevance: The importance of the information for your needs. Does it relate to your topic? Does it meet the requirements of your assignment? Is it too basic or too advanced?
  • Objectivity: The reasonableness of the information. Is it fact or opinion? Is it biased? Do the authors use strong or emotional language, or leave out important facts or alternative perspectives?
  • Verifiability: The truthfulness and accuracy of the information. Where does the information come from? Can you verify it in other sources? Are there citations or links to other sources? What do experts say about the topic?
  • Expertise: The source of the information. Who are the authors, publishers, or sponsors of the information? Are they experts, or has the information been reviewed by experts? Is it posted on a personal website or blog?
  • Newness: The timeliness of the information. When was the information published or posted? Is it up to date? Is your topic in an area that requires current information (such as technology or current events), or will older sources work as well?

Creating an Advanced Google Search

Finding Credible Websites

Try using this directory to find reliable websites on your topic.

  • ipl2 “Information you can trust,” compiled by librarians and other educators.

Sources of Academic Websites

Government Information

  • First Gov The U.S. government’s official web portal.

Fact Checking Groups

How to Cite

Use these tools to help you cite your sources.