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John Jay College of Criminal Justice
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Lloyd Sealy Library

John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Pros and cons: selected databases for research on controversial issues

From the Fall 2014 newsletter

The Library provides access to a large collection of resources useful for researching controversial issues: research reports, reference materials, ebooks, periodical articles, editorials, speeches, public opinion polls, and multimedia files. The following is a list of selected databases that cover current events and controversial issues.

CQ Researcher Plus Archive is composed of over 3,600 research reports, which provide in-depth analysis of timely issues in the areas of health, social trends, criminal justice, education, the environment, science and technology, international affairs, and the economy. Written by experienced journalists, each report features an article overview, extensive discussion and background information, a chronology, pro/con debates, an outlook for the future, and a bibliography. Dating back to 1923, reports can be studied historically as the database tracks issues published in reports from earlier years.

Opposing Viewpoints in Context is another full-text database covering a wide range of issues. Topics are arranged under broad subject headings such as “business and economics,” “health and medicine,” “society and culture,” or “law and politics.” Many types of content are available in this multifaceted, multi-disciplinary database, including pro/con viewpoint essays, topic and court case overviews, agency profiles, national and global news sources, academic journal and magazine articles, primary sources, images, videos, podcasts, multimedia files, interactive maps, statistical information, and links to websites.

Gale Virtual Reference Library (GVRL) consists of hundreds of online reference books, spanning sources in art, literature, humanities, sciences, and social sciences, as well as medicine and law. Articles on contemporary issues can be found in numerous subject encyclopedias, with titles including encyclopedias of American social issues, American immigration, bioethics, cybercrime, climate change, environment, homelessness, law enforcement, media violence, and social problems. This database also features reference handbooks and other full-length online reference (or e-reference) books, which are often published as books in a series (Contemporary World Issues Series, Information Plus Reference Series). Online reference titles include books on abortion, capital punishment, gun control, marijuana, and women and crime.

In contrast to GVRL, Academic Search Complete primarily contains academic journal and other periodical articles, including full-text access to more than 7,850 peer-reviewed journals in over 20 academic fields. Research studies in scholarly journals in the sciences, social sciences, and humanities impart excellent background information on a wide range of issues. Other sources available in this database include Congressional Digest, an independent, impartial publication that summarizes key arguments for and against current issues before Congress, and Vital Speeches of the Day, which reproduces major speeches given by modern leaders. Among its collection of magazines, e.g. Time, Newsweek, U.S. News and World Report, Atlantic, Mother Jones, Harper’s, The Nation, Commentary, National Review, some titles aim to be objective regarding current affairs, while others are openly opinionated, representing well-delineated liberal or conservative viewpoints.

LexisNexis Academic is a premier database well known for its extensive collection of legal, news, business, and reference sources. Supreme Court decisions and law review articles can be applied to pro and con research, as court cases often begin as controversial issues in the news. The Gallup Poll News Service analyzes findings from public opinion polls. A wide range of news sources is available in the database. Containing over 3,000 local, regional, national, and international newspapers, the full text newspaper collection is especially notable.

Using editorials and opinion pieces published in multiple newspapers, researchers can identify and examine different points-of-view. Along with LexisNexis Academic, two library databases recommended for these types of comparisons are the Wall Street Journal Database (Proquest), containing one very influential newspaper, and Ethnic NewsWatch, containing more than 200 ethnic, minority and native newspapers, magazines and journals. Topics, such as affirmative action, the Dream Act, police use of force, racial profiling, and raising the minimum wage, may highlight differences between mainstream newspapers and the minority press, between publications originating in different geographical regions, or between titles promoting opposing political philosophies.

Lory Gallo

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