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Finding Sources to Support an Academic Argument

In the academic world, students are often asked to present a point of view on a topic and back it up with evidence that supports it; this is the essence of an academic argument.  Researching to find appropriate support can seem overwhelming, but this brief guide will give you some pointers to help you get started.

Conduct preliminary research

Understand your topic:  You may have been given a topic for your argument; this can help you to focus your research.  If you are not confident that you fully understand your topic, you should do some preliminary reading before you begin researching.  Encyclopedias can help you learn about your topic.  Encyclopedias are not generally considered appropriate sources, but they can help you become more familiar with your topic. The Credo Reference Database contains millions of entries from encyclopedias and dictionaries.

  • Select a topic:  If you need to select your own topic, you might want to use a specialized database that focuses on controversial issues.  

Opposing Viewpoints contains topic overviews, pro/con articles from books, academic journals, magazines and newspapers. In addition you will find statistics, primary documents and links to vetted web sites. 

CQ Researcher reports on current and controversial issues with complete summaries, pros and cons, bibliographies and more.

Narrow your Topic Down to a Manageable Focus

Use what you’ve learned from your preliminary research to select a narrow and manageable argumentative focus (don’t try to cover a huge topic like illegal immigration if you are only writing a two-page paper, for example.)

Conduct Focused Research

  • When you have a narrow focus for your academic argument, it will be much easier to find the pieces of support that you need; you will be able to limit your reading to just the pertinent sources. 
  • As you research, consider making an outline of your argument and looking at the support you have in each area; this can help you see what support you still need to find.
  • As you conduct your focused research, you will probably want access to a wider range of information this may include:

Search Library Catalog

Search the catalog to locate books.

Examples of books that can be useful when writing an argument paper include:

Opposing Viewpoints Series

Books from this series contain articles from varying viewpoints on current and controversial topics.  Click here to view an example of a book from this series.  

Information Plus Series

This information series highlights current topics. Click here to view an example of a book from this series.

Taking Sides Series

Books in this series present pro and con essays on current events from experts in the field.

Click here to view an example of a book from this series.

Find Articles

Search the databases for articles from journals, newspapers and magazines.

Videos

Films On Demand Streaming Videos allows you to view thousands of online videos right from your computer.

View the EMCC film collection by Subject or Title.