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Shapiro Library

ENG 123 - Composition

This guide will provide links to library resources, services, and databases that support online students' research for this course.

Working with Information


The American Library Association defines information as "all ideas, facts, and imaginative works of the mind that have been communicated, recorded, published and/or distributed formally or informally in any format."

Information is everywhere, and with our mobile devices in hand, we can be instantly connected to its endless supply. As a scholar, you will not only dip into the information stream as you conduct your research, you will also contribute to it with your work of scholarship. How do you choose a topic, find credible information, and use it to create something completely new?

Choosing a Topic & Background Investigation


For a strong persuasive essay, your topic should be an issue that stirs up debate in conversation. It should be a topic that has defined, opposing sides. Consider your field of study, your career and your previous knowledge and experience while you are deciding upon a topic. You never know what information is out there on a topic until you start reading different sources and perspectives.  It is common that your topic will develop and change based on the research and sources you find, so be flexible and open to ideas. The cornerstone of developing a strong argument is to first survey what information is available and pertinent to your need. You can use some of the library's databases to get an idea of what information is out there on your topic and gain some important background information before you settle in to your final topic choice. For more help on refining your topic, visit the FAQ below.

The Multi-Search

The Multi-Search is the primary search box on the library home page, which is a "Google-like" database that searches through many of our article and ebook databases at once. Try a few simple searches using keywords connected to your topic idea, and see what kinds of resources are available. Search using two or so keywords that describe one side of your topic and try again with two or so keywords that describe the other side. What do you see in the information out there on your topic? 


Opposing Viewpoints in Context

The Opposing Viewpoints In Context database is another place you can view information on potential topics. It contains Topic Pages on popular and current social issues that may help you decide on a topic for your essay. From the Opposing Viewpoints In Context homepage, click on the "Browse Issues" link located near the top of the page under the database title. This will bring up the complete list of Topic Pages. You can use the drop down menu at the top of the list to narrow the list by category.

Browsing through the list of Topic Pages can help you identify a general area of interest for your assignment. Click on a Topic Page to go to the individual page; the articles and resources there may help you refine your topic choice. Don't be afraid to explore and change your mind, research is an iterative process!