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English 110 - Brausch: Topics & Background Info

This guide provides search strategies and recommended resources for research in English 110 with James Brausch.

Choosing a Topic and Finding Background Information

Try creating a concept map to brainstorm topic ideas.

You don't have to choose a controversial topic for this assignment. However, pro/con databases and websites are also  great places to get ideas about current social issues:

  • Explore the Browse Issues section of the Opposing Viewpoints in Context database for topic ideas (you'll be prompted to log in with your Pipeline information from off campus).
  • Explore the issues on the ProCon.org website (this website is freely available and won't require a login).

Library reference sources are a great place to find objective background information on your topic. They can also help you narrow your topic and discover keywords for further searching.

Possible Topics

Topic Examples

  • legalization of some currently illegal drug for medical purposes
  • the effectiveness of the “War on Drugs”
  • the increasing militarization of police departments in the USA (or around the world)
  • police brutality in the USA
  • copyright of seed DNA
  • for-profit prisons
  • maternity and paternity leave
  • mandatory identification cards
  • loyalty oaths in the workplace
  • for-profit universities
  • nuclear power (Santa Susana test site disaster; Diablo Canyon power plant); 
  • Big Pharma and the “War on Cancer”
  • corporate personhood and the Citizens United decision
  • global slavery

Research Question Examples

  • Why are police departments becoming increasingly militarized? 
  • Has the “War on Drugs” achieved its goals? Should it be continued or discontinued? 
  • Should certain drugs be legalized for recreational use or only for medical use? 
  • Are prescription medications as safe as we are led to believe? 
  • Is the Alt Right fascist? 
  • Is America a Christian nation? 
  • Is the USA PATRIOT Act constitutional? 
  • Should genetically modified (GMO) foods be labeled as such? 
  • How green is Big Green? 

Research Questions

The video below offers some tips for creating good, open-ended research questions to help guide your research:

Online Reference Sources

To access this reference database from off campus, you will be prompted to log in with your Pipeline username and password.

Print Reference Sources

The following reference books are located in the Luria Library reference section. Ask a librarian for help finding the best book for your topic.

  • American Immigration: An Encyclopedia of Political, Social, and Cultural Change -- R 304.873 C5733 2013
  • Encyclopedia of Race, Ethnicity, and Society -- R 305.8 S294e
  • Encyclopedia of Racism in the United States -- R 305.800973 M663e
  • Encyclopedia of Contemporary American Social Issues -- R306.0973 S528e 2011
  • American Countercultures: An Encyclopedia of Nonconformists, Alternative Lifestyles, and Radical Ideas in U.S. History -- R 306.1 M678a 2009
  • Encyclopedia of Natural Resources -- R 333.703 W246e 2014
  • Encyclopedia of the American Constitution -- R 342.73 L668e 2000
  • Encyclopedia of Social Problems -- R 361.1 P261e
  • Encyclopedia of American Disability History -- R 362.4 B947e 2009
  • The Sage Encyclopedia of Terrorism -- R 363.325 M381s 2011
  • Encyclopedia of Environmental Issues -- R 363.7003 A436e 2011
  • Encyclopedia of Consumption and Waste: The Social Science of Garbage -- R 363.72803 Z76e 2012
  • African Americans and Criminal Justice: An Encyclopedia -- R 364.089 J76a 2014
  • Crime and Punishment in America: An Encyclopedia of Trends and Controversies in the Justice System -- R 364.973 F513c 2017
  • Addiction: A Reference Encyclopedia -- R 616.86 P125a 2010

Credo Video: How to Narrow Your Topic

The following video provides strategies for narrowing a topic (from off campus you will need to log in using your Pipeline username and password):