English 110 – Senn – Debates and Argument Paper

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, online databases, 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 (magazines, newspapers, and books).


  • Pay to Play: Resolve that student-athletes should not be paid to perform because they are amateur athletes enrolled in college to obtain an education.
  • Elections: Resolved that the Electoral College should be replaced with the popular vote.
  • Captivity vs. Conservation: Resolved that marine mammals and animal species should not be kept in captivity for public exhibition.
  • Genetically Modified Food: Resolved that genetically modified crops pose a threat to human health and ecosystems, and will not result in global food security.

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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.

Pay to Play

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


  • Electoral college — United States.
  • Proportional representation — United States
  • Representative government and representation — United States

Captivity vs. Conservation

  • Captive mammals
  • Captive wild animals
  • Wildlife conservation
  • Biodiversity
  • Animal welfare — Moral and ethical aspects
  • Zoos
  • Zoo animals
  • Zoos — Philosophy
  • Animal rights
  • Animal welfare
  • Ethics

Genetically Modified Food

  • Genetically modified foods — Health aspects
  • Genetically modified food — Law and legislation
  • Genetically modified foods — Social aspects
  • Transgenic plants
  • Plant genetic engineering
  • Crops genetic engineering
  • Plant biotechnology
  • Food biotechnology
  • Biotechnology — Safety measures
  • Recombinant DNA — Adverse effects
  • Risk assessment
  • Genetic engineering
  • Environment
  • Food security
  • Germplasm
  • Crops and climate
  • Crops — Adaptation

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

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:


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.


Articles from periodicals (magazines, newspapers, and academic journals) often 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.

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

  • Academic Search Premier Provides articles from periodicals in all subject areas, including thousands of peer-reviewed journals.
  • 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 An excellent source of pro/con information, containing single-themed reports with unbiased coverage of both sides of controversial issues.
  • Opposing Viewpoints An excellent source of pro/con information, providing opinions and other information on hundreds of social issues.


You may find your topic discussed on news podcasts. You can also use podcasts for examples of how experts present arguments on controversial issues.

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?

Finding Credible Websites

Try using one of these directories 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

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