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ENGL 015: Rhetoric and Composition (Lyras-Dubos)



Erin Burns


Picking a Topic

looking for a scholarly article



Feel like flipping a table when it comes to researching? Writing? Even just picking a topic? Never fear, we are here to help!

First, identify and write down key concepts and synonyms to become familiar with your topic:

  • Consult Wikipedia or another web resource (only for helping to define your topic!)

Social Issues and Topic Overviews

CQ Researcher

Second, consult the following databases for topic overviews on current events and social topics.


CQ Researcher – search for high-quality, researched reports on current social issues. If you're looking for a topic, use the left navigation bar to help you. Click on “Browse by Topic” or  “Browse by Date” to see categories to help you brainstorm.

Opposing Viewpoints in Context – search for articles that discuss viewpoints on current social issues. If you're looking for a topic, check the list of popular topics here to get some ideas.

Gale Virtual Reference Library – The library’s version of Wikipedia! Good for a short, authoritative summary of a topic.


Books and Journal Articles


Once you have your key concepts and keywords, you can use The CAT to find books on your topic.

Using the "Begins With (Browse)" search, you can search the CAT using book titles or authors' names. Authors' names should be entered "last name, first name" and titles should be entered without the initial article (the, a, an...). If the book you want is about the author, make sure you search the name as a Subject, not Author.

Examples:    Morton, J.   -OR-   english grammar for students of french

Don't have a title/author in mind? Instead of a "Keyword" Search, try using the "Topic: Title+Subject" search option with one or more keywords.

Try these first

Lion Search – one single search box that searches across all library resources for books, scholarly journals, e-books, newspapers, and more!

Academic Search Complete (EBSCOhost): Provides full-text results from scholarly journals in a wide variety of topic areas.


Need newspaper articles?

The New York Times - search exclusively for New York Times articles using this link. Coverage goes back to 1980 and is free for Penn State users.

Access World News (Newsbank) has access to hundreds of newspapers including Pennsylvania newspapers (e.g. Centre Daily Times), plus national and international newspapers.

Useful Websites

Government Websites (also has American FactFinder)

Bureau of Labor Statistics



CARS Evaluating Websites





APA/MLA Citation Styles