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Finding Resources for a Persuasive/Informative Speech or Essay

Overview & Facts

The Reference section on the main floor of Cook Library has many useful books like  subject encyclopedias, handbooks, dictionaries, and bibliographies that provide background information or overviews on a wide variety of topics. 

  • Increasingly, the Cook Library will be providing you with online access to encyclopedias. Currently, a number of these are listed in the appropriate Subject Gateway found on the library web site.
  • The library has added the words "electronic reference sources" to encyclopedias available online through the Cook Library Catalog so that you will be able to easily search for and/or identify online reference sources, by using these words along with a subject in your catalog search.
  • These types of resources can be an excellent place to start your research.
  • Ask a Librarian to suggest which books will be most useful for you in your research.

Look for your topic in CQ Researcher, also accessible through the Cook Library Web site under Research Databases.

  • This publication provides encyclopedic-like articles on current topics such as health care reform, same-sex marriage, immigration reform, national security, children of divorce, economic crisis, hate groups, oil & energy, environmental issues, gangs, drug and human trafficking.
  • Each article, of about 20 pages in length, identifies major issues surrounding a topic, and provides a chronology, statistics, charts & graphs, a debate question, and a bibliography of additional articles from current periodicals.

Encyclopedia of Contemporary American Social Issues

  • Articles covering economic, social and political conditions in the United States
  • Grouped under Business and Economics, Criminal Justice, Family and Society, and Environment, Science, and Technology
  • Some articles include: Affirmative Action, Election Campaign Finance, Glass Ceiling, Globalization, Health Care, Intellectual Property Rights, Marketing to Children, Outsourcing and Offshoring, Poverty & Race, Unemployment, Border Fence, Corporate Crime, Cybercrime, Drug trafficking, Identity Theft, Human Trafficking, Gun Control, Patriot Act, Serial & Mass Murder, War on Drugs, Abortion, Addiction, Child Abuse, Clergy Sex-Abuse Scandal, Euthanasia, Gays in the Military, Immigration Reform, Prayer in Public Schools, Talk Radio, Violence in Media, Children & Cancer, Climate Change, Global Warming, Influenza, Internet, Medical Marijuana, Obesity, Pesticides, Oil Drilling, Sprawl, Stem Cell Research, Surveillance, Air & Water Pollution, Vaccines...

Sage Reference Online

  • A searchable collection of articles in over 60 encyclopedias and reference works covering a variety of subjects related to sociology, including African American studies, family studies, race & gender, social issues and problems, criminology & criminal justice and social policy. 
  • Do a keyword search of the entire collection and look for articles that cover your topic

ipl2: Information You Can Trust

  • Search this Web directory, created by librarians, to find links to reliable Web sites on a variety of popular topics.



  • This website, sponsored by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, is a great place to begin research on medical topics.

Also try Merck Manuals, another good source of medical information, but geared toward professionals.

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Journal & Magazine Articles

For articles on current academic topics:

Academic Search Premier

  • A research database that indexes magazines, newspapers, and journals from a wide variety of disciplines
  • Some examples of academic topics might be: pollution; space shuttle; AIDS; eating disorders; suicide; and juvenile delinquency.
  • For more extensive coverage of topics, once in Academic Search Premier, click on Choose Databases and select subject-oriented databases such as SocINDEX, PsycINFO, Historical Abstracts, and Medline.

For articles on current popular topics:


  • This database indexes more magazines and nonprofessional-type publications than Academic Search Premier
  • Search this and Academic Search Premier simultaneously by clicking on Choose Databases and adding it to your search
  • Some examples of popular topics might be: travel; haunted houses; pets; and movie stars.

For articles on medical topics:

Health Reference Center - Academic

  • Click on tab - Subject Guide Search and type in the name of the medical condition that you are researching.
  • If you click on the link Subdivisions, you will be able to search by subtopics such as care & treatment, causes, diagnosis, personal narratives, and research.
  • If you click instead on the subject heading link, you will see a list of results of articles with a menu bar to the left, which allows you to search by other types of publications including magazines, books, news, images, videos and audios
    • If you click on Books, you will be directed to encyclopedia articles that will provide overviews of a medical condition.

Health Source: Consumer Edition

  • This is an EBSCO database that provides articles from sources geared toward consumers

Some examples of medical topics might be: anorexia; childhood obesity; Down's Syndrome; diabetes; and depression. This database indexes a wider selection of medical publications than Academic Search.


For biographical information:

Biography In Context

  • This database not only provides biographies that were originally published in books, but may also provide a select group of magazine articles, images, videos, and links to websites
  • May search by individual name or by profession

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  • This website is a clearinghouse for most US government statistics
  • It links to major compilations of government statistics like the Statistical Abstract of the United States, as well as agencies by subject, which will give you ideas about websites that you might visit to find statistics on a topic of interest

Bureau of Justice Statistics

  • Provides statistics on violence, crime and juvenile delinquency

National Center for Health Statistics

Bureau of Labor Statistics

National Center for Education Statistics


National Newspapers

  • Newspaper articles are a good source of quotes
  • This database indexes and provides electronic access to current articles in the New York Times, Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, and Wall Street Journal

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The URL for this Web page is http://pages.towson.edu/sara/persuasive.html

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