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Controversial Issues

Writing a debate or argumentative research paper? Here's how to get started researching controversial issues.

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This research guide will help you locate information on researching controversial issues and writing persuasive essays. The goal of this kind of essay may be to change the reader's mind, to force a certain course of action, or to acknowledge your perspective (The Brief Penguin Handbook, with Exercises, 3rd ed., p. 84). 

Persuasive essays may also be called argumentative essays or position arguments. In a successful essay, you:

  • define the issue
  • take a clear position
  • make a convincing argument
  • acknowledge opposing views

You can read about argumentative essays online at the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL).

Tips for Getting Started

Generally, your research for a persuasive essay will involve one or more of the following:

  • choosing a topic that interests you or researching a teacher-assigned topic to find an angle that you like
  • locating reference resources to provide background information on your topic
  • locating books and other library materials on your topic
  • locating journal or magazine articles for current research, statistics or analysis
  • locating websites specifically aimed at your topic
  • citing your sources in MLA or APA style

Anti-War protestors, LOC

Source: Anti-Vietnam war protest and demonstration in front of the White House in support of singer Eartha Kitt, c1968.

Courtesy of the Library of Congress.