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ENG 285.06 (Principles of Speech): Research Your Topic

This libguide has been specifically created to provide resources for Dr. Johnson's persuasive speech.

Where to Start...


What about Google?

There are times when Google is a completely acceptable tool for finding information. Librarians do still use Google because we know when it will be the most effective. 

When to use Google/ the Open Web:

  • To explore an unfamiliar topic and find background information
  • To go to a specific website
  • To find current government forms and data
  • To find information about a unique or new topic
  • To find multimedia materials
  • To answer a quick question
  • To find information for personal use

When to use Library Databases:

  • To find Journal Articles
  • To find News Articles, both historical and current
  • To find scientific data, methods and protocols
  • To find in-depth factual information on complex topics
  • To find historic documents and archives for research

Note: When searching in Google Scholar, you may get full text articles but sometimes it requires a subscription.  Never purchase a subscription.


 Use the databases below and you will never have to pay:



Evaluating the Resources that You Find

When you encounter any kind of source, consider:

  1. Authority - Who is the author? What is their point of view? 
  2. Purpose - Why was the source created? Who is the intended audience?
  3. Publication & format - Where was it published? In what medium?
  4. Relevance - How is it relevant to your research? What is its scope?
  5. Date of publication - When was it written? Has it been updated?
  6. Documentation - Did they cite their sources? Who did they cite?


Know if Your Topic is Too Narrorw or Too Broad


Too Broad (Click Here)

  • How is COVID-19 treated?
  • Will tablet computing replace the need for laptops?

Too Narrow

  • How much has the popularity of Harry Potter improved the reading scores of second graders in Virginia?
  • At what point in time will the need for nurses in pediatric wards outpace the graduation rates from nursing schools?

Just right

  • In what ways have online communities changed the nature of support systems available for people with Attention Deficit Disorder?
  • How has mountaintop removal mining in western Kentucky impacted the migratory habits of the local bird population?


Broader or Narrower Terms


All database has subject headings in some form. Some subject headings have narrower terms and/or broader terms.



Exploding a term takes all of the broader terms that accompany your term and add them to your search. It can be a great way to find more relevant subject terms and, therefore, relevant results.


  • Go to the advanced search option in the ribbon at the top of the screen. (Stay away from Command Line unless you really know what you're doing.)
  • Click the "Thesaurus" link above the search box. A pop-up will come up.
  • Select the thesaurus you want to use (probably Proquest Thesaurus)
  • Search or browse for the subject terms you want; select terms by clicking the checkbox next to it.
  • Once you click the subject terms you want, ProQuest remembers which ones you've checked, so even if you go to a different entry in the thesaurus, you will still keep your previous subject terms.
  • Add to search, probably combining with OR
  • Now execute the search.


Selecting a Topic: You want to select a topic that is neither too broad or to narrow. See if you can select topics with a "just right" scope from the options below.

Air pollution in urban areas
Too Broad: 0 votes (0%)
Too Narrow: 0 votes (0%)
Just Right: 0 votes (0%)
Total Votes: 0
Respiratory diseases in children
Too Broad: 0 votes (0%)
Too Narrow: 0 votes (0%)
Just Right: 0 votes (0%)
Total Votes: 0
Sierra Club Campaign to close down 1980's-era coal plants in Texas
Too Broad: 0 votes (0%)
Too Narrow: 0 votes (0%)
Just Right: 0 votes (0%)
Total Votes: 0

Answers (Key)

1. Air pollution in urban areas

Too Broad -  need to identify an aspect of air pollution in order to narrow the scope

2. Respiratory diseases in children

Just Right - enough information to get started and you can continue to refine your topic

3. Sierra Club Campaign to close down 1980's-era coal plants in Texas

Too Narrow - Information will be to hard to find on just one event