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Controversial topics

Resources and tips for researching and writing about issues

Controversial topics - Introduction

Researching controversial topicsthree people each holding a speech bubble and over their heads a quote that reads All opinions are note equal. Some are a very great deal more robust, sophisticated and well supported in logic and argument than others. -Douglas Adams, author 11 mar 1952 to 2001

What makes a topic controversial?

Something that is controversial is an object of debate. There are viewpoints that are in conflict. The word "controversial" is formed from the root words contra and versus, which gives you a sense of the conflicting perspectives. 

Where do you start?

Background research: learning about the topic and the main elements

  • What are the main points of the issue?
  • What do people agree on?
  • What is it that people disagree about?

Tip: try a database in the page "Find Information For / Against"



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What do you do with the information you find?

Consider what statements are Facts and which are Opinions

  • Facts are verifiable
  • Opinions are ways of interpreting the evidence

Example: the number of students enrolled at a university is a fact. Whether the number means the university is popular is an opinion.

Does your assignment ask you to draw a conclusion, present your own opinion, or just gather the points of the debate?

The purpose of your assignment will influence how you put together your project (written or otherwise)

Tip: for writing help, try the link in the left navigation menu titled "Research & writing help"

If you need to choose a topic

Sometimes topics are assigned by the instructor. If not, and you need to choose one yourself, consider picking something that interests you but about which you're not an expert. This way you'll have motivation to investigate the topic and enough unknowns to help keep the search interesting.