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Library Skills for Students of English Composition

This is a basic library guide for students on how to find books, journal articles and other resources in Buley library for assignments and research papers.

What is an Argument Essay?

An argument essay is one which explores a controversial topic and takes a particular standpoint. It is important to pick a topic which has two conflicting points of view and one which you are passionate about. Read background information about the topic and find enough information for and against the topic in order to make sound arguments about your position.

How is an argumentative essay different from an expository essay?
An expository essay merely describes the topic and provides information. An argument essay examines the pros and cons of a debatable issue and provides sound evidence to support your claim. So it is necessary that the information you gather is current, detailed, and accurate.

Your initial paragraph should give a brief description of the topic, state why the topic is important, and must present your thesis statement. The body of the essay should discuss the pros and cons with supporting evidence for each. The conclusion must restate your claim and say why you think your standpoint is correct based on the evidence you have gathered.

Fore more information on the argument essay consult Purdue's Online Writing Lab 


More information

Please see the Controversial Issues/Argument Essay guide for more information.

Sources for Topics

Finding a topic

The first step in the research process is to identify a topic.

A topic is the subject you will be writing about. You may be assigned a topic by the instructor, or you may be given a list of topics to choose from, or you may be asked to write an essay on a topic of your choice. The last choice is often the most difficult for students. If you are stumped and don't know what to write about, the sources on the left may help you choose a topic.

Guidelines for choosing a topic:

  • Find a topic that interests you.
  • Find a topic that is just the right size, just the right scope. You may have to do some initial research on your topic to see how much information is available. Reading what has already been written about your topic may generate some ideas that you may want to explore. To find background information on your topic consult the sources on the left under "Background Information".
  • Your topic should not be too broad or general as there may be too much information. Examples of broad topics: computers, 2012 elections, homelessness, drug abuse
  • Your topic should not be too narrow as there may not be enough information. Example of a a narrow topic: homelessness and drug abuse in the town of West Haven, Connecticut. If you are writing about computers think of what interests you about computers.

Ask yourself questions about the topic to arrive at a reasonable thesis statement about your stand on the topic. Sometimes asking the questions how, when, what, where, and why might help you narrow your topic. If you choose to write about social networks, here are some questions to ponder: Are social network sites good or bad? Does social networking improve the quality of our lives? What are the psychological and sociological effects of social networking? Is social networking affecting the labor market?

Search Terms

Once you decide on your topic, write down as many related words and ideas that come to mind such as "social networking" "online networking", "social tools", "online communication tools" or you could search by specific social networking tools such as Facebook, Tinder, Twitter, Bebo, Linkedin, etc.

 For more help on choosing a topic, consult Purdue's Online Writing Lab site:

Finding Articles

To find journal, magazine or newspaper articles, you must search a database. The library subscribes to several databases. Some are general and some are subject specific. Opposing Viewpoints in Context is a great database for the hottest controversial issue topics in all subjects and provides topic overviews,  magazine and journal articles, news, primary sources, statistics, websites,  podcasts, and videos. You can search Opposing Viewpoints by entering your search terms in the search box below.


Opposing Viewpoints search box

More Databases

To access any database that the library subscribes to, go to the library home page and select "More Databases" from the left panel under "Popular Databases". On the databases page, click on the down arrow next to Choose a Subject, select the subject that you want and click on Go. A list of relevant subject databases for that discipline will appear and you can search the ones you want.

Alternatively, select the relevant database from the  A-Z list of databases. To search Opposing Viewpoints, click on the letter O and then select Opposing Viewpoints from the list of O databases.

Below are links to some additional databases that are good for research on controversial issues: