English 110 – Roman
About this guide
This guide provides students with research strategies and recommended resources for research on social problems. Use the tabs to navigate through the pages of the guide.
Write a research paper identifying a current social problem and posing solutions to that problem. Choose a topic that interests you, one that allows you to draw upon a range of sources, and one that can be explored in a paper of just 7 to 8 pages in length. This research paper must be subjective rather than objective: in other words, you will need to develop an argument or interpretation rather than simply present information from your sources.
Paper Writing Assistance
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If you need more help with research, ask a librarian! Stop by the Reference Desk, or contact a librarian by phone, email, or chat for more help. Find our contact information on the right side of this page.
Choosing a Topic
Your topic should be focused, but not so narrow that you cannot find enough information about it. For topic ideas, look at some of the reference sources on the “Background Info” tab of this research guide.
A research question articulates exactly what you want to know about your topic, and helps guide your research. Your research question should be specific, but open-ended.
The video below offers some tips for creating open-ended research questions.
Keywords are the words you type into a search box to search for information on your topic. The words you use to describe your 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.
Watch the video below for a short tutorial on keywords.
The following resources will help assist with picking a topic, narrowing a topic, finding background information, and finding keywords and subject headings. These resources are available in the Luria Library Reference section.
- The official guide to American attitudes: who thinks what about the issues that shape our lives R 303.380973 M682o
- Violence in America : an encyclopedia R 303.6 G685v
- Protest, power, and change : an encyclopedia of nonviolent action from ACT-UP to women’s suffrage R 303.61 P888p
- Encyclopedia of racism in the United States R 305.800973 M663e
- Encyclopedia of social issues R 306.0973 R 845e
- Encyclopedia of contemporary American social issues R306.0973 S528e
- Social history of the United States 306.0973 W186e
- American countercultures : an encyclopedia of nonconformists, alternative lifestyles, and radical ideas in U.S. history R 306.1 M678a
- Encyclopedia of Politics R 320.03 C283e
- Encyclopedia of social problems R 361.1 P261e
- Encyclopedia of crime and punishment R 364.03 L665e
- Encyclopedia of gangs R 364.1066 K82e
- Dictionary of American history R 973.03 A194d 2003
Online Reference Sources
This database is available online. If you access these resource from off campus, you will be prompted to enter your Pipeline username and password.
- Credo Reference: Contains the full text of nearly 800 encyclopedias, dictionaries, bilingual dictionaries, and other reference books.
Search the library catalog for books you can check out on your topic.
Try adding one of these phrases to to your own keywords to get more focused results
Use the following databases to find articles from periodicals (magazines, newspapers, and scholarly journals). These resources will require your Pipeline account information when you access them off campus.
- Academic Search Premier: Provides abstracts for articles from over 4,600 periodicals (journals, magazines, and newspapers) in all subject areas.
For pro/con information on current or controversial issues, try searching one of these databases:
- CQ Researcher: An excellent source of pro/con information, containing 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: An excellent source of pro/con information, providing opinions and other information on hundreds of social issues. Includes viewpoint articles, topic overviews, full-text magazines, academic journals, news articles, primary source documents, statistics, images, videos, audio files and links to vetted websites.
For newspaper articles, try searching one of these sources:
- National Newspapers Expanded: Searches several well-respected national newspapers, including: New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, Christian Science Monitor, and Washington Post
- Newspaper Source: Provides cover-to-cover full text for 35 national & international newspapers. The database also contains selective full text for more than 375 regional (U.S.) newspapers. In addition, full text television & radio news transcripts are also provided.
See the Luria Library’s database descriptions page for a full list of library databases, or ask a librarian for the best database to use for your topic.
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. Source Evaluation Questions to help you determine whether the sources you find are credible:
- Purpose: How and why the source was created. Is it intended to educate, inform, persuade, sell, or entertain? Do the authors, publishers, or sponsors state this purpose, or try to disguise it? Why was this information published in this particular type of source (book, article, website, blog, etc.)? Is the source designed for the general public, students, or experts?
- Relevance: The value of the source for your needs. Does the type of source meet your assignment’s requirements? Does the information answer your question, support your argument, or add something to your knowledge of the topic? Is it too general or too specific? Is it too basic or too advanced?
- Objectivity: The reasonableness and completeness of the information. Do the authors present the information thoroughly and professionally? Is it fact or opinion? Is it biased? Do the authors use strong, emotional, manipulative, or offensive language? Do they leave out, or make fun of, important facts or alternative perspectives?
- Verifiability: The accuracy and truthfulness of the information. Do the authors support the information they present with strong factual evidence? Do they cite or provide links to other sources? What do experts say about the topic? Can you verify the information in other credible sources? Does the source contradict itself, include false statements, or misrepresent other sources?
- Expertise: The authority of the creators of the source. What makes the authors, publishers, or sponsors of the source authorities on the topic? Do they have related education, experience, or other expertise? Do they provide an important alternative perspective? Has the source been reviewed in some way, such as by an editor or through peer review?
- Newness: The age of the information. Is your topic in an area that requires current information (such as science, technology, or current events), or could information found in older sources still be useful? When was the information presented in the source first published or posted? Are newer sources available that would add important information to your understanding of the topic?
For more help locating reliable information online, see the Finding Credible Web Sources research guide.
Explore a podcast:
Explore your topic in a TEDTalk:
MLA, 8th Edition
Be to keep track of your sources while you are searching and as you incorporate quotes and paraphrases into your paper.