Choosing a topic
When choosing a topic for your research paper, think about the following:
- Unless your instructor assigns a topic, try to select a topic that interests you.
- Make sure your topic is not too broad, or too narrow. You will find too much information when searching for a broad topic; and not enough information when searching for a narrow topic.
- If you already have a general topic, try searching the library's catalog or the library's databases for ideas on how to narrow that topic down.
- Visit the library's Reference Desk and request to view the following book: 10,000 ideas for term papers, projects, reports and speeches: Intriguing, original research topics for every student's need.
- For current events and issues in the news, try searching the library's database: CQ Researcher.
- For debatable or controversial issues, ask one of the librarians about the Opposing Viewpoints Series, the Taking Sides Series, Issues in Focus Series and/or the Current Controversies Series.
- Visit the Social Issues Research Guide. There you will find a list of current social issues to choose from.
Steps to Researching a Social Issue
- To select a topic, do one of the following:
- Choose an issue that was brought up in your assigned readings. Look at the list of Suggested Subject Headings in this guide and determine which terms are most closely related to that issue.
- Consult the Reference books listed below in #1: For Topic Ideas, and read about a topic that interests you.
- Go to the Databases page and select CQ Researcher. Browse by Topic to find an issue that interests you.
- Go to the Databases page and select Points of View Reference Center. Browse by Category to find an issue that interests you.
- Use a Reference book to get introductory information on your topic. Encyclopedias are organized alphabetically; use the Suggested Subject Headings in this guide to find appropriate terms for your topic. In other Reference books, look in the Index for terms related to your topic.
- Select appropriate terms from the list of Suggested Subject Headings in this guide. In the library catalog, search by SUBJECT for these terms. This search will lead you to circulating books and media related to your topic.
- Search for articles related to your topic using one of the Research Databases listed in this guide. Scholarly articles can be found in Academic Search Premier, Proquest Research Library, and Wilson OmniFile.
- Search for statistics or current news related to your topic using the Internet Resources in this guide. Print or document any websites you visit, so you can cite them appropriately.
Books will provide an excellent starting point for your research in the field of Social Issues. Reference books often give you background information and a general overview on your topic so that you can proceed with greater understanding to a more detailed treatment of your subject in other books and periodicals. Reference books may include specialized dictionaries, encyclopedias, handbooks, almanacs, atlases and/or statistical reports. The librarian at the Reference Desk can help in locating an appropriate source. Listed below are the titles and call numbers of some of the Social Issues books in the library's reference collection. The reference collection is located on the main level of the library. Books with a location of Reference cannot be checked out of the library. The Circulating Collection is on the second floor of the library. Books with a location of Circulating may be checked out.
To search the Catalog for a book, click on it's callnumber below.
1. For Topic Ideas
|Encyclopedia of modern American social issues||Reference||HN57.K73 1997|
|Great debates at the United Nations: An encyclopedia of fifty ke...||Reference||KZ4968 .G67 2001|
|Social issues in science and technology : an encyclopedia||Reference||Q175.5 .N49 1999|
|State of the World||Reference||HC59.S74|
|Supreme Court Drama : Cases That Changed America||Reference||KF4550.Z9 B73 2001|
|World at Risk: A Global Issues Sourcebook||Reference||JZ1242 .W67 2002|
2. Guns, Drugs
|Encyclopedia of drugs, alcohol, & addictive behavior||Reference||HV5804.E53 2001|
|Encyclopedia of gun control and gun rights||Reference||KF3941.A68 U88 2000|
|Guns in American society : an encyclopedia of history, politics,...||Reference||HV7436 .G8783 2002|
3. Environmental Issues
|American environmental leaders: from colonial times to the prese...||Reference||GE55 .B43 2000|
|Dictionary of environmental law||Reference||K3584.6 .G55 2000|
|Encyclopedia of environmental studies||Reference||TD9 .A84 2001|
|Encyclopedia of global change: environmental change and human so...||Reference||GE149 .E47 2002|
|Environmental law handbook||Reference||KF3775 .E55 2001|
|Global warming||Reference||QC981.8.G56 L66 2004|
|The facts on file dictionary of environmental science||Reference||TD9.W95 2007|
|The global warming desk reference||E-Book|
4. Ethics, Bioethics, Genetic Engineering
|Animal rights||Circulating||HV4708.Y84 2004|
|Animals and the law: a sourcebook||Reference||KF390.5.A5 C87 2001|
|Encyclopedia of bioethics||Reference||QH332 .E52 2004|
|Encyclopedia of biomaterials and biomedical engineering||Reference||R857.M3 E63 2004|
|Encyclopedia of ethical, legal, and policy issues in biotechnolo...||Reference||TP248.16 .E539 2000|
|Encyclopedia of ethics||Reference||BJ63 .E45 2001|
|The Facts on File dictionary of biotechnology and genetic engine...||Reference||TP248.16.S84 2001|
5. Terrorism, War
|Encyclopedia of modern worldwide extremists and extremist groups||Reference||HN49.R33 A85 2004|
|Encyclopedia of terrorism||Reference||HV6431.K883 2003|
|Encyclopedia of world terrorism||Reference||HV6431.E53 2003|
|Encyclopedia of youth and war: young people as participants and ...||Reference||HQ784.W3 S54 2000|
6. American life, Immigration
|American attitudes : what Americans think about the issues that ...||Reference||HN90.P8 A527 2005|
|American generations : who they are, how they live, what they th...||Reference||HC110.C6 M545 1998|
|Facts about American immigration||Reference||JV6465.B73 2001|
|International migration : trends, policies, and economic impact||Circulating||JV6217 .I59 2001|
|The Millennials : Americans under age 25||Reference||HQ796 .M55 2001|
7. Crime, Criminals, Punishment
|Encyclopedia of capital punishment in the United States||Reference||HV8694.P35 2001|
|Encyclopedia of crime and punishment||Reference||HV6017.E524 2002|
|Encyclopedia of DNA and the United States criminal justice syste...||Reference||RA1057.55.P34 2004|
|Encyclopedia of juvenile justice||Reference||HV9104 .E58 2003|
|Encyclopedia of organized crime in the United States||Reference||HV6446.K43 2000|
|Encyclopedia of white-collar & corporate crime||Reference||HV6768.E63 2005|
|Encyclopedia of women and crime||Reference||HV6046 .E56 2000|
|The encyclopedia of American prisons||Reference||HV9471.S54 2003|
|The encyclopedia of high-tech crime and crime-fighting||Reference||HV6773.N48 2004|
|The encyclopedia of serial killers||Reference||HV6245 .N49 2000|
8. Women, Gender, Sexuality
|Domestic violence and child abuse sourcebook||Circulating||HV6626.2.D66 2000|
|Encyclopedia of abortion in the United States||Reference||HQ767.5.U5 P35 2002|
|Encyclopedia of birth control||Reference||HQ766 .R442 2000|
|Encyclopedia of domestic violence||Reference||HV6626.E534 2007|
|Encyclopedia of women's history in America||Reference||HQ1410.C85 2000|
|Encyclopedia of women and crime||Reference||HV6046 .E56 2000|
|Handbook of American women's history||Reference||HQ1410 .H36 2000|
|International encyclopedia of women's suffrage||Reference||JF851 .H28 2000|
|Supreme Court decisions and women's rights : milestones to equal...||Reference||KF4758.A7 S87 2000|
|The encyclopedia of HIV and AIDS||Reference||RC606.6 .W385 2003|
|The encyclopedia of sexually transmitted diseases||Reference||RC200.1 .S525 2004|
|The sourcebook on violence against women||Reference||HV6250.4.W65 S68 2001|
|Datapedia of the United States : American history in numbers||Reference||HA202.K87 2007|
|Statistical abstract of the United States||Reference||HA202.U57|
|The Gallup poll.||Reference||HN90.P8G35|
|The world's women, 2000 : trends and statistics.||Reference||HQ1154 .W95 2000|
|The World almanac and book of facts||Reference||AY67.N5 W7|
The library catalog is used to locate books both at RVCC, as well as from other libraries in the Somerset County Library System. Books will provide in-depth information not found in reference sources.
- Start with a Keyword search. Once you find one or two books about your topic, check the book's record to see what Subjects are being used. Once you find the appropriate Subject Heading, repeat your search using those headings. Generally, the results from a Subject search will always be more accurate than the results from a Keyword search.
- If you know the title of the book you are looking for, do a Title search.
- If you are looking for a book with a specific author, do an Author search (last name first).
Suggested Subject Headings for Social Issues:
Click a subject heading below to use it as the search term for a Subject Search in the catalog.
- Affirmative action
- Aids (Disease)
- Animal rights
- Assisted suicide
- Body image
- Capital punishment
- Child abuse
- Child labor
- Church and state
- Climatic changes
- Eating disorders
- Emigration and immigration
- Freedom of religion
- Gay rights
- Global warming
- Gun control
- Hate crimes
- Human rights
- Juvenile justice
- Mass media
- Medical ethics
- Moral conditions
- Nuclear disarmament
- Police brutality
- Public schools
- Race relations
- Racial profiling
- Religion and ethics
- Religion in the public schools
- Right to die
- School choice
- School improvement programs
- School violence
- Sentences (Criminal procedure)
- Sex in mass media
- Sex instruction
- Social ethics
- Stem cells research
- Technology and civilization
- Welfare recipients
- Women in mass media
Consult with the reference librarian to find the term best suited to your needs.
Browse the Collection:
Most of the books can be found in the following areas:
- BF -- Psychology
- BJ -- Ethics
- BL -- Religion. Mythology. Rationism
- HM -- Sociology (General)
- HN -- Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
- HQ -- The family. Marriage. Women
- HT -- Communities. Classes. Races
- HV -- Social pathology. Social and public welfare
- KF -- United States
- L -- Education (General)
- T -- Technology (General)
- TD -- Environmental technology. Sanitary engineering
All of the library's circulating books are located on the upper level of the library.
For additional library catalogs, including libraries in Hunterdon and Middlesex counties, consult the Additional Library Catalogs page. If you find a book in one of these catalogs that the library does not own, request the book using the library's Interlibrary Loan Service.
Research Databases - Finding Articles
The Evelyn S. Field Library has access to thousands of periodicals. (Periodicals can be magazines, scholarly journals, or newspapers.) Some periodicals are in the library's print (or hard copy) collection. However, the majority of periodicals are available in the Research Databases. These databases provide access to articles. This information is generally more current than material found in books.
Search for periodical articles on Social Issues using the databases listed below. They can be accessed from the Library Database Page. (If you are using these databases from an off-campus location, you will be asked to identify yourself by logging in with your Username and Password. This is the same login you use on campus. The Research Databases are available only to registered RVCC students.)
- CQ Researcher
The CQ Researcher explores a single issue in depth each week. The issues are chosen based on current news. This database is easy to check. If there is a relevant report, it's a great way to jump start your research. There are 44 reports each year including four expanded reports. Every 12,000-word report features comments from experts, lawmakers and citizens on all sides of every issue. Numerous charts, graphs and sidebar articles -- plus a pro/con feature, a chronology, bibliographies and a list of contacts.
- Credo Reference
A full-text online reference service that includes encyclopedias, dictionaries, bilingual dictionaries, quotations, and many other sources of factual information. Use Credo to get background information on a research topic or become familiar with a new subject. Subjects covered include art, business, food and beverage, geography, history, language, law, literature, medicine, music, philosophy, psychology, religion, science, social sciences, and technology.
- National Newspapers Expanded
Proquest Newspapers includes the full text of The Atlantic Journal - Constitution, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, The Christian Science Monitor, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post.
- Points of View Reference Center
Provides a balanced series of articles representing multiple viewpoints to help understand the full scope of a wide range of controversial subjects. The database offers an overview of an issue and it's points and counterpoints, as well as a guide to Critical Analysis.
After finding an article on your research topic, the database will either provide a citation and summary of the article, or it will provide the full-text (the complete article). If you are only given a citation and summary of the article, you can check the Periodical Locator to determine if the periodical you are looking for is available in another database. (The Periodical Locator is an alphabetical list of all the journals the library has access to. Feel free to talk with a librarian for assistance.) If the article is not available in any of the library's research databases, request the article using the library's Interlibrary Loan Service.
If, for your assignment, you are required to have sources from scholarly journals, use the Identifying Scholarly Articles guide to help you determine if your source is a magazine article or a scholarly article.
- Child Stats
Source: Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics -- This website offers easy access to statistics and reports on children and families, including: family and social environment, economic circumstances, health care, physical environment and safety, behavior, education and health.
- Electronic Journal of Sociology
Source: The Electronic Journal of Sociology -- an online journal of refereed (peer-reviewed) articles and editorial reviews. Archives are not searchable, but article titles can be browsed by issue.
Source: FedStats -- Provides access to statistical data from Federal Agencies that are listed in Statistical Programs of the United States Government. Statistics are arranged by topic, searchable, and organized by state.
- Human Rights Watch
Source: Human Rights Watch -- The mission of HRW is to protect the human rights of people around the world. Their website provides news reports and articles related to human rights issues and violations worldwide.
- ICPSR Data Archive
Source: Univ. of Michigan Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research -- a searchable archive of data related to the social sciences. Categories of data include Census (Population Characteristics); Economic Behavior and Attitudes; Education; Health Care abd Facilities; Mass Political Behavior and Attitudes; Social Institutions and Behavior.
- Intute: Social Sciences
Source: Intute -- A searchable database of internet resources related to the social sciences, including education, environmental sciences, social welfare, sport and leisure practice, and women’s studies.
- IPL: Social Sciences
Source: Internet Public LIbrary -- Provides links to quality websites in all areas of the social sciences. Categories include Education; Ethnicity, Culture and Race; Gender & Sexuality; Psychology; Social Issues and Social Welfare;.
- National Center for Education Statistics
Source: U.S. Department of Education -- Provides new headlines, data, and facts about all levels of education in the US.
- Poly-Cy: Public Policy
Source: Robert D. Duval, Univ. of West Virginia -- Table of contents lists social issues with links to related internet resources. Many common social issues topics are covered.
- Public Agenda for Citizens
Source: Public Agenda -- A non-profit, non-partisan organization that conducts opinion research in an effort to bridge the gap between the political debates of an issue and the public’s view. The website provides Issue Guides on a variety of social issues as well as Research Studies, Multimedia, and Articles & Speeches.
Source: SearchGov.com -- A search engine which also provides links to U.S. government related sites, including Executive Agencies, Independent Agencies, and state sites.
- Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics Online
Source: US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics -- Provides statistical data about many aspects of criminal justice, organized into 6 topics.
- Statistical Resources on the Web
Source: University of Michigan Library -- A collection of sites for finding statistical data in many areas of the social sciences. Categories include Agriculture, Consumers, Education, Energy, Environment, Health, Military and Politics, among others.
- The Statistical Abstract of the United States
Source: U.S. Census Bureau -- The summary of statistics on the social, political, and economic organization of the U.S. A main menu allows you to browse sections of related statistics, or you can search for a specific topic.
- The US Government’s Official Web Portal
Source: U.S. General Services Administration -- Online access to a variety of government information, grouped by category.
- Urban Institute
Source: Urban Institute -- This organization analyzes public policy, evaluates programs, and informs community development to improve social, civic and economic well-being. Documents on the website highlight research that has been done in many areas of public policy and social issues.
- Yahoo! Society & Culture: Issues of the Day
Source: Yahoo! -- The directory page lists over 100 social issues. Select an issue for a list of related websites, or search within the directory for a specific topic.
- Call or visit the Reference Desk to speak to one of the librarians. The Reference Desk is located on the main floor of the library. The phone number is 908-526-1200 x8350.
- Email your question to one of the librarians using the Ask-A-Librarian Service.
- For further information about this guide, please contact Megan Dempsey
Last Updated - 23 November 2010