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ENG 1061/1070 English Composition/Effective Speaking: Prof. Alexander's assignments

Getting started with background research for composition and speech topics.

Exploratory essay assignment

Help finding persuasive pieces for an exploratory essay

Browsing for topics

Browsing for topic ideas

For fresh ideas, see what's in the news

Browse the New York Times online

See the Most Popular recent stories. 

Browse recent opinion pieces

Register for a NY account through the Castleton library. Once you have registered, you may access directly, and sign in using the user name and password that you have created.

Browse National Public Radio (NPR) or British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).

Browse debate topics

 "Debatabase" of topics.

Pros and cons of controversial issues


Subscription resources for topics to browse and full-text sources. (Log-in required for off-campus access)

Red Blue Dictionary

From Shows how people from across the political spectrum define, think or feel differently about the same term or issue. Provides multi-perspective analysis of controversial terms, from "abortion" to "Zionism."

Encyclopedias about social issues you can access online:

Sources of persuasive pieces

Searching for sources

Click "Browse Issues."  Then, for any issue, see the Viewpoints essays. 

Or, in an Advanced Search, specify content type as "Viewpoints," like this:

Find text, audio and video of speeches at

Follow the link to "Site Search" on the left to search for a topic.

Article databases

Searching for sources, continued

Searching in multidisciplinary article databases

These magazines in the Castleton library (and full-text in some subscription databases) tend to have substantial essays on controversial issues:

The Atlantic | Harper's | Nation | National Review |The New Republic | New Yorker | New York Times Magazine

You can search all of the magazines above at once in an advanced search in Castleton OneSearch

Start an Advanced Search. Copy the phrase in green below and paste it in a search box. Select SO Journal Title/Source from the drop-down menu and add your search term or terms in the next box.

atlantic or harper's or nation or "national review" or "new republic" or "new yorker" or "new york times magazine"

In an advanced search in Academic Search Premier, you can specify the document type you are looking for.

For example, you can limit the document type to "Editorial"

Includes the New York Times. 

To search within specific magazines, like the ones suggested above, put the titles in one box and select Publication title - PUB from the drop-down menu, and add additional search terms in another box.

In ProQuest Central, in an advanced search, you can choose several types of documents. 

You might try these document types:

  • commentary
  • editorial
  • essay
  • feature
  • front page/cover story

Use the box that looks like this to select document types:

You can also limit the type of source to magazines and newspapers.

Example of advanced search

An example of an advanced search using Boolean searching

2nd try, a better search:


To help understand the culture wars in the US

Red Feed Blue Feed

From the Washington Post

"See Liberal Facebook and Conservative Facebook, Side by Side"

Left vs. Right Infographic

Click to get to website with enlarged image and more information

Ideology and quality mapped

Media Bias Chart

Attorney Vanessa Otero created this chart placing news outlets along a continuum of fact vs. opinion and a continuum of partisan bias.  Click on the image below to go to the full chart and an interactive version.


For background



Also see the

page to find text, audio and video of persuasive speeches