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ENG 1061/1070 English Composition/Effective Speaking: Choosing a topic

Getting started with background research for composition and speech topics.

See what's new

For fresh ideas, see what's in the news

New York Times onlineLook for the link to the Most Popular recent stories.
National Public Radio (NPR) online. Click on "topics" to browse.

Subscription source for streaming video

Streaming video of a wide range of documentary, archival and educational films.  (Castleton subscription resource.  Log-in required for off-campus access.)

Browse books and magazines

Browse the new books in the Castleton library for current topics. 
Browse the magazines and journals in the Castleton library for current topics.  Current issues are on display so you can browse covers.  Or look at a stack of one magazine that covers an area of interest.

For concept papers

Browse reference ebooks on
key concepts or ideas


Books: ideas for concept papers

Read All About It:  Cultural and Natural Histories

A list of books in the Castleton library, many of which would be excellent sources for "explain a concept" research

Cost/value of college

A sample topic, with lots of sources:

The library has collected a set of resources on this topic of interest to college students

The cost/value of a college education and student debt

Browse online

All of these resources list topics to browse and link to full-text resources on these topics.

You can Browse Issues in CQ Researcher.  Click on a broad topic to see the list of subtopics.  Reports include links to further sources. Or use the Issue Tracker to see a long alphabetical list of topics.


Has a "Debatabase" of controversial topics,
with arguments for and against for each

Pros and cons of controversial issues

About choosing a topic

Video from North Carolina State University Libraries


Tips for successful topic-choosing
for research assignments

1) Make sure you understand the assignment and all the requirements.  Read the assignment handout more than once.  Bring it with you to the library!

2)  Choose a topic that is interesting to you and will be fresh for you and your audience.  What is something that might be useful or interesting for you to know more about?  An issue in your community?  Something related to a career of interest?

3)  Be flexible.  Your original idea will probably morph several times before you are done, based on the information you find or don't find.  You may need to broaden or narrow your topic.  You may need to be flexible about the language you use for your topic, based on the searching and reading you do as you start your research.

4)  Start reading.  The more you know, the easier it will be to refine your topic and know what terms to search for.

Concept map tool

See Credo Reference's Mind Map tool for your topic to visualize relationships among concepts and learn related keywords, with definitions of terms at your finger tips.

Choosing a topic to compare/contrast

Other reference books to browse

Browse magazines online

Browse particular magazines or journals you know of that cover the kinds of topics you are interested in. You can browse and read some magazines and journals online. 

To find one of interest, you can browse an alphabetical list or search for a title or subject

See if your magazine is included in a database. Click on the title of a database. For example: 

Once you've opened the database, you can browse by date or search within that periodical.