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Controversial Issues...Search Strategies  

Last Updated: Sep 18, 2015 URL: Print Guide

Research in a Nutshell Print Page

Start Here

Start with reference sources for exploring social, political, or environmental issues at the forefront of national debate.  Depending on the topic, your search could begin in a subject encyclopedia, which will provide useful background information and a bibliography of other sources. 

These two substantial reference collections should be your first stop  for locating background information on your topic. Credo Reference Collection has been referred to as "the scholar's answer to Wikipedia."

  • Credo Reference Collection  
    Search quality reference sources from reputable publishers. Audio, video, art images and links to the library's related resources are featured on this powerful platform.
  • Gale Virtual Reference Library Subject List  Icon
    Need to become an instant expert? Find background information in reference books on virtually any subject by using this link to titles in the humanities, social sciences and sciences. Or, select the Title List and search individual titles.

Selected Sources: Print and Online

Culture Wars: Encyclopedia of Issues, Viewpoints and Voices, 2010
Call Number: Click title to read online.
ISBN: 9781849727136
Located using a keyword search:
Culture AND encyclopedias

Cover Art
Elections A to Z
Call Number: Reference Collection: R/324.603/B452e/2008
ISBN: 9780872893665
Located using a keyword search:
Elections AND encyclopedias

Cover Art
Encyclopedia of Contemporary American Social Issues, 2011
Call Number: Click title to read online.
ISBN: 9780313392054
Located using a keyword search:
Critical issues AND encyclopedias

Encyclopedia of Death and the Human Experience, 2010
Call Number: Click title to read online.
ISBN: 9781849727709
Located using a keyword search:
Dying AND encyclopedias

Guns in American Society, 2008
Call Number: Click to title to read online.
ISBN: 9781849723138
Located using a keyword search:
Guns AND encyclopedias

Books in Series

The Willey Library subscribes to The Reference Shelf, a series devoted to a broad spectrum of issues on the public agenda. We also subscribe to books and reports on environmental topics from the Worldwatch Institute.  Use the links below to access the titles in the VSC Library Catalog.  Then, click on the Details of a title in the list to find the call number of the book in our collection. 

  • The Reference Shelf
    Examples of recently published titles include: The Supreme Court, Revisiting Gender, Aging in America, The Arab Spring, The U. S. Infrastructure, Social Networking and The News and Its Future.
  • Worldwatch Institute
    The series includes these publications: State of the World (annual report of the Worldwatch Institute), Vital Signs (Trends that are shaping our future) and Worldwatch Reports.

Pro/Con Databases

  • CQ Researcher  Icon
    This well-known source is valuable for locating objective and accurate information on current topics. Each issue contains background information, charts, graphs, a chronology of events, pros and cons, and a list of resources for further investigation.
    Watch the brief video.
  • Opposing Viewpoints in Context  Icon
    This database consists of a wide range of resources to include reference works, academic journals, magazine and news articles, and primary source materials.Compare with CQ Researcher for coverage of controversial issues.

Multidisciplinary Databases

Search a multidisciplinary database such as Academic Onefile or Academic Search Premier by subject or by keyword.

  • Academic Onefile  Icon
    Multidisciplinary coverage of literature in the arts and sciences. If you are trying to narrow your topic, enter a subject guide search and look at the various subdivisions denoting the economic, political, historical, moral, psychological or legal aspects of a topic. Other useful subdivisions are “research” or “statistics.”
  • Academic Search Premier  
    Use keyword searching to combine two or more terms to narrow a topic.

    Examples: nuclear power AND public opinion

    social media AND privacy

Academic Search Premier Tutorial

Use this Guide on the Side tutorial to learn the basics of searching the multidisciplinary database, Academic Search Premier.  The tutorial software was developed by librarians at the University of Arizona.

  • Academic Search Premier Tutorial
    Use instructions in the left hand navigation of the screen to follow the steps in a sample search of this full text database. Learn how database tools can help you narrow a topic, find relevant articles and print or email documents.

Selected Periodical Titles

The following titles are widely recognized as indispensable sources for monitoring the political, economic and social topics of our times.

Congressional Digest is subtitled The Pro and Con Monthly and examines both sides of issues that are debated in Congress. Find the current five years in the JSC Periodical Collection or link to full text of Congressional Digest in Academic Search Premier.

CQ Weekly (JSC Periodical Collection 1998--) is a publication for reporting the news and activities of the U. S. Congress.
CQ Almanac provides a synthesis of activity for the previous Congress and is located in the reference collection at R/328.707/C76c/Year.

Updates and revisions by Linda Kramer


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