July 16th, 2012

Finding Articles with Opposing Viewpoints

A common assignment that many learners get at some point in their programs is to find differing or opposing viewpoints on a controversial topic. There are a couple different ways to handle this type of assignment depending on which program level you’re at.

For undergraduates, the CQ Researcher database is a great place to start. It produces objective reports about a number of “hot” topics each year and includes a pro/con segment in every report:

CQ Research Pro-Con section

For more information about using this resource, see the Database Guide: CQ Researcher.

However, if you are a graduate learner, CQ Researcher might give you some ideas for topics, but you will also need to find differing viewpoints in the scholarly, peer-reviewed literature. For that, you will want to turn to the specialization databases for your discipline. Pick your school from the Databases by School list to find the databases that are recommended for your discipline.

Remember, as you get further into scholarly research, the controversies may be different than they are in popular culture. Some popular issues that continue to be hot topics won’t be debated in the same way in the scholarly literature (e.g. abortion, homosexuality). You may have better luck finding information about topics where people may agree on a desired outcome, but have different ideas of how to get there (e.g., preferred therapies for drug addiction). Conversely, they may agree about what is happening with a current trend, but have very different opinions on whether the current state is positive or negative (e.g., use of computers in the classroom).

When you’re running a search on your controversial topic, you should avoid using generic words such as pro, con, benefit, drawback, etc. Generic words may remove articles from your results list that are appropriate for your topic, but simply don’t use those words.

Instead, search for specific terms (e.g. digital divide, technology, education) that describe or are related to the controversial aspect(s) of your topic. Check out the Skill Development Tutorials page if you need help getting started with using the databases for searching. If you continue to have questions, Ask a Librarian.

-Kim

Comments

Comment from Michelle Z. Matthews
Time August 7, 2012 at 8:55 am

This was very helpful. I am always trying to learn how to argue a viewpoint and this will help…

Comment from Taryn
Time August 13, 2012 at 12:08 pm

This article was very helpful. It offers insight on how to get information that is controversy especially when pursuing a higher-level degree where substantive information is necessary and required. I printed this as a review source that I can use when I’m working on papers as a reminder of how to successfully pinpoint and describe pro/con situations in the field of Psychology.

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