Welcome to the Research Guide for Rhetoric.

Library Home

Research projects for this course are specific in form and content. Please follow instructions provided in your syllabus and by your professor. The suggested databases are available linked from here and from the Electronic Resources section found on the library home page. Print resources are available in the PHC on-campus collection. You may check the location and availability of an item in the on-campus collection through the online catalog, Voyager.

When choosing a policy topic for your rhetoric project, consider the following questions:

  • Is this a topic that is currently being debated?
  • Can you identify a specific group of advocates on each side of the issue?

Professional library assistance is invaluable in this course and is available on campus, by phone at 540-441-8400, or by email at askalibrarian@phc.edu.

Developing a Research Strategy

  • Select a topic: Use government websites and policy sites, such as CQ Researcher and Congressional Digest Debates to suggest a specific topic.

  • Develop a working topic sentence: Does it meet the requested criteria? You can refine by narrowing or broadening your focus as you research.

  • Expand your search using the PHC on-campus collection and electronic resources, such as JSTOR, ProQuest, and Academic Search Premier.

  • Select appropriate search terms and expand your search as additional potential search terms become apparent. (Note: This is where PHC students often struggle, using terms that are too general, too specific, or terms not in academic usage.)

    • Use search connectors, such as AND, OR, and NOT and quotation marks to link terms in your search (ex., India AND Pakistan; Indian OR "Native American"; Indian NOT "Native American").

    • Use search "limiters," such as check boxes in databases for peer reviewed, full text, or specific date ranges.

    • Be flexible in potential search terms (ex., Middle Ages = medieval ; diet = nutrition, etc.).

  • Identify authoritative web sources, such as Stratfor, Heritage Foundation, and Brookings Institute.

  • Use the bibliographies of current helpful sources to find more!

  • Evaluate sources for authority and scholarship:

    • Is the author a credentialed expert in this subject? (Note: a PhD in classical literature may not be an expert in climate change or a company's public relations office may not be an expert in anything.)

    • Does the author provide essential facts or previous research to support the argument? Does the author indicate bias, cite unsubstantiated information, or indicate unsupported assumptions? Do other credentialed experts support the author's conclusions?

    • Is the publisher academically credentialed?

    • Is the information current?

Subject-specific Databases

  • CQ Researcher- Reports are published weekly on a topic of current interest. Reports include an introductory overview; background and chronology on the topic; an assessment of the current situation; tables and maps; pro/con statements from representatives of opposing positions; and bibliographies of key sources. Articles range from 1923-present. Browse by topic, by date, or search by keyword. With the number of years included, it may give you a way to look at how the attitudes and arguments have changed over time.

  • Congressional Digest Debates covers opposing views on current controversial issues. Documents are drawn from Congress, the Supreme Court, the United Nations, and other international tribunals.

  • Stratfor is a news analysis provider that covers current political, economic, and military developments and can provide background material for debates with international implications.

General Databases

  • ProQuest and Academic Search Premier- Periodical databases covering a wide range of topics. Use the "Advanced Search" option and limit your results to scholarly journals.

  • LexisNexis- Database of newspaper articles, broadcast news transcripts, SEC filings, tax law, state and federal cases, state and federal codes, elected officials, legistlative bills, primary sources in US history, and statistical tables.

  • JSTOR- Database of scholarly articles from a broad variety of disciplines. Articles are not added to JSTOR until they are at least 3 years old. In Advanced Search you can check the box to include "articles outside of JSTOR" to find titles of articles published in recent years.

Internet Resources

  • Congress.gov is a government depository for Congressional information about proposed and approved legislation.

  • Heritage Foundation offers scholarly researched policy position papers on a variety of subjects, usually from a more conservative perspective.

  • Brookings Institute provides scholarly researched policy position papers on a variety of subjects, usually from a more liberal perspective.

  • Center for Stategic and International Studies offers research into many current and controversial subjects with international implications.


Search Voyager to find items in the PHC on campus collection on your specific subject.
The following book series provides an overview or examples of stances on a controversial issue. Remember that these are only an overview of one person’s opinion, not a sufficient base for an entire research project. Generally, references are provided for further research on the topic.

  • "Opposing Viewpoints" series - Each book is its own controversial topic. The library currently owns 4 books in the series: Nationalism, Patriot Act, Illegal Immigration, and Environment. NOTE: This series approaches policy controversies from a very general perspective; you will need more specific and substantive resources.

  • "Taking Sides" Reference Library - Each book covers a variety of topics within a broader topic, i.e., controversial political issues. The PHC collection currently contains seven different topics: religion, world politics, moral issues, American history, world history, political issues, social issues.

Research Tips

Proper citation for any research paper is essential. Please use the citation style required by your professor. Citation guides are available in the library and library staff are available to guide your search. Online citation help is available at OWL (Online Writing Lab).

Created: McConnell, 2007. Reviewed and updated: Dr. James Tallmon/Pensgard, 2009. Updated: Tallmon/Thornhill, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015.  

Updated: Thornhill, 2017.

Patrick Henry College Library

Library Home