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Argumentative Paper


Argumentative papers, also called persuasion papers, take a stand on an issue in an attempt to convince the reader of a debatable or controversial point of view. This point of view usually becomes the thesis. Your instructor will provide you with specific information about the writing process involved. The Academic Resource Center is another good place to get help on writing this type of essay, as well as the Research Help guide. Now here below is how the Geisel Library can help.


Choosing a Topic

It is generally agreed that your topic should be one that is of special interest for you. Often, it is a result of personal experience. Developing an appropriate topic idea takes time and requires critical thinking and analysis. If unsure about what to write about, or if your idea is a bit too broad, then the following library and Web resources may assist you in generating ideas for exploration and refinement.

Caveat: EN103 and EN104 students are strongly encouraged to work through the process of topic selection and refinement with their instructors, rather than rely strictly on these "nuts & bolts" websites.

Hot Topics/Best Information on the Net
From St. Ambrose University.

Idea Generator
From Old Dominion University, this supplies comprehensive lists of topic ideas for most disciplines. Links are not furnished, however.

Research Paper and Argument Topic Ideas
From Tidewater Community College.


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Finding Background Information

CQ Researcher (Congressional Quarterly)
Use CQ Researcher to get an overview of a controversial subject. "The CQ Researcher explores a single "hot" issue in the news in depth each week. Topics range from social and teen issues to environment, health, education and science and technology. There are 44 full-text reports produced each year." This is a great place to start learning about a topic's history, pros and cons, and suggested further reading.
Access restricted to Saint Anselm College Community.

IssueWeb: A Guide and Sourcebook for Researching Controversial Issues on the Web
     REF ZA4228 .D53 2004
Included are "issue briefs" containing summaries, background information, and websites on subjects such as gun control, school violence, and terrorism.

Encyclopedia of Applied Ethics
     REF BJ63 .A66 1998 (4 volumes)
This list presents the 281 articles that are included in this encyclopedia.

Statistical Abstract of the United States
The standard source of American statistical data, this publication summarizes social and economic data from many federal agencies.
Also available at the Library Reference Desk HA 202 .U5


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Finding More Detailed Information

The Library Catalog and databases will assist you in finding evidence to substantiate your argument. Here are some searching suggestions that work for most databases:

  • Use truncation (i.e., *) at the end of a word to find all variants of that word stem. For example: controvers* will find controversial and controversy.
  • Try combining your topic with words such as ethic*, controvers*, moral*, debate, dialogue, attitude*, view*, dispute*, "public opinion", statistic*, or issue*. For example: "mandatory minimum" and debate.
  • Use synonyms or words with similar meanings to be sure to find all references to your subject. For example: (decriminalization or legalization) and drug*

Searching the following databases will be particularly helpful if your argument falls in the area of current events:

Academic Search Premier
Provides indexing of many news and opinion magazines such as: American Spectator, Human Events, The Nation, National Review, New Republic, and Public Interest, most of which are available full-text online or in the library.
Access restricted to Saint Anselm College Community.

LexisNexis Academic
Full-text newspaper articles from the current issues of major newspapers such as the New York Times and The Washington Post are available to search by selecting "General News" and "Major Papers." Newspapers are available online on the same day they are published in print. This database also includes online news transcripts.
Access restricted to Saint Anselm College Community.
Please note: The truncation symbol in this database is an exclamation point (!) rather than an asterisk (*).

Additional information:

The Craft of Research
     Q180.55.M4 B66 2003
See chapter on "making good arguments: an overview"

Everything's an Argument
     PE1431.L86 2001

Learn to Research
Research and evidence tips from Debate Central at UVM.

Writing an Argumentative Paper
From Cerritos College.


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