Researching Pro & Con Issues

Researching Pro & Con Issues

(Updated: October 2002)

If you are doing a position paper or speech on a "pro & con" issue, this guide should help you! In order to make your position clear, you will need information to support it, and information to defend yourself from the opposing arguments. This information will come from many sources: books; chapters in books; articles in journals; articles in major newspapers; statistical findings reported in articles, government reports, or reference sources; public opinion polls; and promotional information resources from major national associations supporting one side or the other of the issue.

pro con imageBooks -- Use our Library Catalog to search for current books on your topic. If you can locate a recent, major, academic book on your topic, this will be your single best resource for beginning your research. Don't hesitiate to ask for assistance at the Reference Desk. If you want to find an appropriate book on your own using our Library Catalog, we recommend that you first use the Subject / Keyword approach to find a book on your topic, then examine that book's subject headings as shown on the display. Locate the exact Library of Congress subject heading that matches your topic, then click on it to find more books on this exact topic in our Library.

Books in Series -- There are four major series which the Library buys which deal with pro & con issues. If you find a recent book on your topic in one of these series, you will have an excellent start on your research. Each of the links below will take you that part of our online Library Catalog where the individual titles in these series can be viewed.

Contemporary World Issues Click on Contemporary World Issues to see a browse listing of all titles in this series. There are 115 or more entries for this series.

Current Controversies Series Click on Current Controversies to see a browse listing of all titles in this series. There are 36 or more entries for this series.

Opposing Viewpoints Series Click on Opposing Viewpoints Series to see a browse listing of all titles in this series. There are 103 or more entries for this series.

The Reference Shelf There are 152 or more entries for this series.

Articles in Reference Sources -- Locate one or more articles from major reference sources dealing with your topic, for example:

Britannica Online (FULL-TEXT online) This is the full-text online Web version of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. Unlike the print edition, coverage for this online edition is current, ongoing, and cumulative, and includes links to major Internet sites.

Encyclopedia of Bioethics (Rev. ed. 5 vols. New York: Macmillan Library Reference, 1995.) These volumes cover controversial ethical issues in the medical and biological areas; e.g., abortion, euthanasia, drug abuse, electroshock therapy, etc. ref QH332.E52 1995 (1st Floor, North).

West's Encyclopedia of American Law (12 vols., 1998- ) This legal encyclopedia (written for non-lawyers) provides background information on controversial subjects from a legal perspective. ref KF154.W47 1998 (1st Floor, North).

Finding Other Articles in Reference Sources The Library has a large collection of print reference sources. To find one on your topic, use the Library Catalog--Advanced Search and input a single, VERY BROAD subject term (like biology, geography, health, etc.) in a STEP 1 input box, then make the STEP 2 pulldown menu for Location read, "Reference Collection;" finally, click on the search button. Don't hesitiate to ask for assistance at the Reference Desk.

Articles in Periodicals -- The following highly regarded and unique periodicals often contain feature articles covering controversial topics:

California Journal. (FULL-TEXT online) This is a monthly magazine devoted to topics of current interest in California, e.g., drought, Medfly control, earthquake safety, etc. You can locate online full-text articles from California Journal through Lexis-Nexis. Follow these steps:
  1. Select sources from the top, black, LexisNexis navigation bar.
  2. Enter "California Journal" in the box on the Source List page, then click on "Find Title;"
  3. Next, when it displays that it has found "California Journal," click on the phrase Search This Title;
  4. Finally, Steps 1, 2, and 5 will already be automatically filled out in the correct format to find  "California Journal." Do not make any changes to these three steps. All that you need to do is to enter appropriate search terms in Step 3, enter an appropriate date range in Step 4, and then click on the "Search" button.

If you prefer the print version, our Library does keep all print periodical volumes of this title at: JK8701.C33 (Periodicals, A-level, North).

Congressional Digest. This monthly periodical devotes each issue to a current controversial topic before Congress, such as NAFTA, education reform, defense spending, etc. You can search and locate articles from this periodical on your topic via EBSCOhost Academic Search. HINT: enter your topic in the FIND input box at the top and below that, in the JOURNAL input box, enter "Congressional Digest." EBSCOhost does not offer full text online for this title; however, our Library does keep all print periodical volumes of this title at: JK1.C65 (Periodicals, A-level, North).

CQ Researcher. (FULL-TEXT online) This online periodical devotes each issue to a current controversial topic, such as animal rights, fetal tissue research, etc. It maintains its own database and easy-to-use search interface.

Issues and Controversies on File. This biweekly periodical (kept on index tables near the Reference Desk) contains fact-filled reports and analyses (averaging 7-10 pages) of current "hot topics" in American government and society. Each article concludes with a bibliography of recent sources (primarily newspaper and magazine articles). Indexing is available with the set. ref E838 .I88 (Table 3A, 1st Floor, North).

National Journal.    (FULL-TEXT online) This weekly magazine covers current topics of national interest (e.g., recession, military base shutdowns, budget deficit, etc.). You can locate online full-text articles from National Journal through EBSCOhost Academic Search. HINT: enter your topic in the FIND input box at the top and below that, in the JOURNAL input box, enter "National Journal." The actual print periodical volumes are located at: JK1.N28 (Periodicals, A-level, North)

Vital Speeches of the Day. (FULL-TEXT online) This periodical provides the full texts of important speeches by contemporary leaders in such fields as economics, politics, education, business, labor relations, etc. Perhaps an important recent speech on your topic can be located there. You can search and locate full text online articles from this periodical on your topic via EBSCOhost Academic Search. HINT: enter your topic in the FIND input box(s) at the top and below that, in the JOURNAL input box (found within the Seach Options tab), enter "Vital Speeches of the Day." The actual print periodical volumes are located at: PN6121.V52 (Periodicals, A-level, North).

Finding Other Periodical Articles    (Including many FULL-TEXT online) The Library has an ever-growing collection of electronic and print periodical indexes to assist you in your research. Many contain full text online periodical articles from leading academic journals. To choose the best index for your particular topic, consult the Find Articles and More... web page. Don't hesitiate to ask for assistance at the Reference Desk.

Statistics and Opinion Polls -- Statistics and the results from opinion polls can be used to add weight or give credence to a position. Here are some of the major available sources:

Counting California (FULL-TEXT online) This public domain database is a new initiative committed to enhancing California citizens' access to the growing range of social science and economic data produced by government agencies. In a departure from more static formats, Counting California's single interface enables users access to actual raw data compiled by federal, state, and local agencies, and also allows users to collate and integrate data by topic, geography, title, and provider.

Gallup Organization   (FULL-TEXT online) The organization's up-to-the-minute Polls News Service has a wealth of standard, longitudinal polls and a searchable, interface. Summary information, tables, charts and methodology are also present.

Gallup Poll (Wilmington, Del.: Scholarly Resources, 1935- ) This annual publication gives the results of polls taken by the Gallup organization over the preceding year on various controversial subjects. There is an index included with each volume. ref HN90.P8G35 (1st Floor, North).

Roper's Polls (FULL-TEXT online) After clicking on the "Go To This Database" link, select Polls & Surveys.

Social Work Almanac (Washington, DC: NASW Press, 1995.) This excellent resource provides statistical information concerning U.S. social issues. Topics include: children, crime and delinquency, education, health and mortality, mental illness, aging, social welfare, housing, homelessness, etc. This book is located at the Reference Desk: ref HV90.G53 1995 (1st Floor, North).

Statistical Abstract of the United States    (FULL-TEXT online) Use the INDEX at the end of the Table of Contents! This online Web-version replicates the popular and frequently consulted print reference source by the same title. It provides tables of statistical material covering a wide range of information. It is published annually, in print and electronic form. The most recent print volume is kept at the Reference Desk: ref HA202.A385 (1st Floor, North).

Statistical Handbook on... These excellent print reference volumes give invaluable statistical information concerning key issues. All are located in our 1st Floor, Library North, Reference Collection, except those noted at desk -- ask for these at the Reference Desk. Each title belows begins with the words: Statistical Handbook on...
... Adolescents In America ref HQ796.S8237 1996
... Aging Americans ref HQ1064.U5.S343 1986
... Consumption And Wealth In The United States ref HC110.C6.S73 1999 at desk
... Racial Groups In The United States ref E184.A1.H417 2000 at desk
... Technology ref T21.B47 1999
... The American Family ref HQ536.S727 1999 at desk
... US Hispanics ref E184.S75.S27 1991
... Violence In America ref HN90.V5.S833 1996
... Women In America ref HQ1420.T34 1996

Statistical Record of... These excellent print reference volumes give invaluable statistical information concerning key issues. All are located in our 1st Floor, Library North, Reference Collection, except those noted at desk -- ask for these at the Reference Desk. Each title below begins with the words: Statistical Record of...
... Asian Americans ref E184.O6.S73 1993 at desk
... Black America ref E185.5.S73 1995 at desk
... Children ref HQ792.U5.S721994 at desk
... Health And Medicine ref RA407.A1.S72 1998 at desk
... Hispanic Americans ref E184.S75 S73 1995 at desk
... Native North Americans ref E98.P76.S73 1993 at desk
... Older Americans ref HQ1064.U5.S698 1996 at desk
... The Environment ref TD180.S64 1995
... Women Worldwide ref HQ1101.S73 1995 at desk

The World Almanac    (FULL-TEXT online) This online almanac provides statistical and factual data on a broad and comprehensive level. The latest print edition is also kept at the Reference Center: ref A467.N5 W7 (1st Floor, North).

Associations -- Encyclopedia of Associations This 5 volume reference source lists tens of thousands of associations, many dealing with one side or the other of major controversial issues. There is an index listing organization names and keywords. Each listing gives a short description and includes an address and phone number, along with Web site addresses. Most associations and organizations would be happy to send you informational material and/or promotional brochures describing their specific point of view. This set is located at the Reference Desk: ref HS17.G33(1st Floor, North).


AUTHOR - This Web Page was authored by Barbara Case. If you have questions,
comments, or suggestions about the CONTENT of this Library Web page,
please send them to Barbara at: bcase@calstatela.edu. Thank You.