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Rhetoric 306/309

Help for RHE 306/309 Students

RHE 306/309 Research help

What can you ask a librarian?
  • Topic development help
  • Finding scholarly and popular sources and data
  • Evaluating information for credibility
  • Ethically using information

Choosing a topic is the hardest part. You want to choose something not too broad, but not too obscure. For RHE 306, you need to choose a topic discussed locally.

Explore local controversies. You can't pull a topic out of the blue - you need to see what is important in your local community. Start with broad keywords (traffic, startup culture) and see what the locals argue about:

Once you have chosen a topic discussed in the local press, you need to get a broader overview and learn more about it. Try these:

Doing research on the Web or in databases can be exhausting. That's usually because the words you're searching with need some help. 

Do you know the answers to these questions about your topic?

  • What are other ways people talk about my topic? What are related terms? 
  • What are people arguing about? 
  • Who cares about this topic?

Probably not! That means you need to do more research. What you learn about your topic will allow you to search more flexibly. 

If my topic is ride sharing, here's what I learned so I can search more effectively:

  • What are other ways people talk about my topic? What are related terms? (ride sharing, Uber, Lyft, sharing economy)
  • What are people arguing about? (wages and benefits, safety, discrimination, self-driving cars)
  • Who cares about this topic? (Mayor Steve Adler, women, workers, taxi drivers)

Try searching here:

Sometimes you'll find info you don't trust, other times you'll wonder if the author is biased. Be skeptical with these questions:

  • Credibility: 
    Who is the author? Is he/she an expert on the subject, a representative from a credible organization, a columnist for a newspaper? What gives the author authority to represent that side of the controversy?  (ex: US Secretary of Commerce? A lawyer? A reporter for a student newspaper?)
    • TIP: If there is no information on the author, try Googling that person. If the name is common one, use a keyword from the topic (ex. Rebecca Blank and Department of Commerce). Many web sites won’t have individual authors listed so ask the same questions of the organization as a whole.
  • Source bias: 
    Does the source (newspaper, magazine, web site) generally lean to one side of controversies (examples: liberal vs. conservative; free market economics vs. government regulated economy)?
  • Accuracy
    Is this information true? If it’s a viewpoint, did they use facts to support it? Are the facts accurate? Where did they get the information? Can you find this information elsewhere to confirm its accuracy?
  • Currency
    Is it current enough for your research?

Video: Credibility and Bias

Evaluate Sources (both print and Web sources)

Use these screenshots to search Nexis Uni, a database that includes major newspapers and magazines

Step 1: First, enter keywords in the search box, then click on "All Nexix Uni"

Step 2: Choose content type " News", and check " Editorials & Opinions" to limit to viewpoints

Step 3: On result page, more limiters can be applied to reduce the number of results retrieved.

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Elise Nacca's picture
Elise Nacca
Perry-Castañeda (Main) Library (PCL)

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