By Jeffrey Kroessler

When given the option of choosing their own topic, most students select a controversy of the moment. (As a historian I hope in vain to encounter students with historical topics, but that is a discussion for another day.) More often than not, their search begins, and ends, with Google. Granted, they will find a great deal of information, but is it the information that they need?

A better place to start is the Library’s homepage, where students can access a set of databases specifically addressing current events. Under Databases by Subject, there is a link to “Current Events.” The next question is, which one?

A good starting point is CQ Researcher. From obesity to immigration to poverty to affirmative action, students will find reports illuminating the issue. Each report includes background information, a chronology, maps and graphs, and a bibliography. There is also a Pro/Con feature with experts or advocates on either side of a question offering their view. For instance, an October 2010 report titled “Preventing Obesity” asks the question: Should soda be excluded from the products that food stamp users can buy?

A second database found under Current Events is Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Searching for obesity brings up a range of opinion pieces, such as “Unhealthy foods should not be marketed to children.” Here, students have the chance to read pieces with a particular point of view and then evaluate the information used by the author and the opinion offered.

A third resource is Ethnic Newswatch, a collection of news sources from the minority and ethnic press. How is the question of childhood obesity covered in these sources, and what anecdotes can the student researcher use to support his or her own argument?

These sources and more are conveniently grouped together, but the student needs to know first that this is available, and second how to get there. The first step, therefore, is for the classroom instructor to direct students to these resources. Time invested here will pay great dividends when the final papers are turned in.

Read more from the Spring 2017 issue of Classified Information, the Library's newsletter