Finding a Topic: Online Resources

Finding a Topic


Library Databases (Articles)

     Facts on File World News Digest  World News Digest is an archive of domestic and international news stories from 1940 to the present, updated weekly. It covers all major political, social, and economic events and contains more than a million internal hyperlinks, allowing you to follow the development of each story chronologically as well as connect it to related issues over time and across space. You will not find depth of analysis here, but these resources can provide a useful overview of events and issues.

     For browsing topics use:

CQ Researcher

     CQ Researcher  publishes weekly reports devoted to a single issue in the news, including health, criminal justice, internaional affairs, education, the environment, technology, and the economy. Each report provides an "Overview," "Background," "Current Situation," "Outlook," "Pro/Con," and "Chronology." All reports feature charts/graphs of relevant statistics and accompanying photographs.

     For browsing topics use:

Polling the Nations

     Polling the Nations  provides the results of over 14,000 public opinion surveys from 1986 to the present.  Open the "Topic" menu for a master list of all polling subjects.

General OneFile

     General OneFile  is a comprehensive database of journal, magazine, and newspaper articles. If you have a general topic but still need to find a focus, use the Subject Search as a brainstorming tool. When you have located the appropriate Subject Heading for your topic, you will be offered links to both "Related Subjects" and "Subdivisions."
     "Related Subjects" provides a list of topics that are directly related to your subject but often narrower in scope.
     The "Subdivisions" allow you to focus on a particular aspect of the topic: Case Studies, Economic Aspects, Forecasts and Trends, Health Aspects, History, Innovations, Laws, Political Aspects, Psychological Aspects, Religious Aspects, and Social Aspects--to name only a few.

Opposing Viewpoints in Context

     Opposing Viewpoints in Context : Go fishing in the search slot at the top and hope the autofill function steers you toward the right subject heading--or open the "Browse Issues" page and pick your topic from the extensive alphabetical list.  Once you've connected with an issue you'll be offered resources from a range of categories, including Viewpoints, Academic Journals, Magazines, News, Reference, Statistics, and Websites.

Finding Pro/Con Articles

     These three comprehensive databases make it easy to target editorial essays in newspapers, magazines, and journals. If you have a general topic but need to focus the issues and/or take a postion, scanining editorials will help you understand what aspects are controversial and help clarify where you stand in relation to the prevailing arguments.
  • Academic Search Premier  Scroll down to the "Document Type" slot on the home page and select "Editorial." Then enter a Subject or Keywords to describe the issue.
  • ProQuest Research Library : Click the "Continue" button to reach the search page, then open the "More Search Options" tab below the search slots. In the "Document Type" slot select "Editorial." Then enter a Subject or Keywords to describe the issue.
  • LexisNexis Academic : Click and select "All News." Below the search slots in the "Article Type" box check "Editorials & Opinions,"then enter Keywords or phrases to describe the issue. Note: Since you are searching full text, it is easy to retrieve editorials in which your search terms are mentioned but not discussed. If this happens, try changing the "Everywhere" default setting for your search to either "Headline & Lead" or "At Least 5 Occurences."

Library Catalog (Books & Media)

IC Library Catalog

     A library catalog provides a very effective means of brainstorming a topic. Enter a "Subject" search on the topic and then browse the available subheadings displayed below it. If you find one that interests you, you are guaranteed at least one resource in the Library collection.
  • Subject Search on  Globalization: Browse the pages of subheadings to see how particular facets of a topic can be identified and targeted in a Library catalog.

ebrary (full text online books)

     ebrary  Through ebrary the IC Library has access to approximately 70,000 full-text online books.  Each book has an individual record in the IC Library catalog, but these records are brief, with little more depth of information than the assigned Subject Headings and the language used in the book and chapter titles.  Sometimes your topic may be too particular or specialized to target effectively by searching catalog records .  By searching ebrary as a database, you can run keyword searches of the complete full text of all 70,000 volumes--giving you page-level access to these resources.

Contact Us

picture of Dr. Brian Saunders

Dr. Brian Saunders

Humanities Librarian
(607) 274-1198

Web Tools This is a good search engine if you're still brainstorming a topic.  As you type your search, may display a selection of searches related to your terms, any of which you may choose. Within retrieval sets there may also be a helpful display of "Related Searches," often including Pro and Con categories for controversial topics. And a new feature called "Ask Q&A" can connect you to sites that answer specific questions on your topic.


DocuTicker: Article Categories: This Web site collects articles and reports from government agencies, NGOs, and think tanks.  Browse this list of topic categories to find something interesting or provocative.


Frontline: almost 30 years of investigative journalism by this PBS show is available here in one-hour Flash videos.  Most of these focus on social and public policy issues.  Browse the options by Category on the right or scan them all By Date. Any one of these could be the starting point for a research project. This is more a brainstorming than a research site.  In addressing its 40 controversial issues it's strong on snippets of information, brief quotes, and statistics.  Use it as a stimulus to further research elsewhere.

And Now That You Have a Topic . . .

Need databases and Web sites for research across a wide range of disciplines and subjects?  Try my Desert Island Databases: Help for Researchers at Sea.

Citation Help


MLA is the citation style used by most disciplines in the Humanities. The guides below use the latest 2008/9 standards.