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English 301: College Writing and Research

About this page

When you are assigned to a write a paper and you have to choose the topic, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by ideas or even worse, have no ideas at all. Not only do the Libraries have resources for helping you find information on a topic, we can help you find a topic, too. Here are the key activities on this page:

  • Watch the  videos for general help to develop a topic for your  paper.
  • Review the list of general resources and encyclopedias available from RUL  to learn more about your topic. .
  • Complete the assignment.

Background information

The following sources are useful for topic ideas, overviews, background information, concepts, theories, ideas, and key references:

CQ Researcher Online

Full-text weekly topical reports.   Focuses on topics considered newsworthy or issues of broad interest to the general public.

Gale Virtual Reference Library  

Includes topical overviews; essays; book chapters; primary documents; specialized encyclopedia articles, and other sources. 

Sage eReference Encyclopedias  

Includes specialized encyclopedia articles written by experts in the respective topical areas. This is a good source for background information, overviews, references, terms, and ideas for topics.

Access World News

Covers newspapers and news wires across the world.


Covers newspapers, magazines, trade journals, newsletters, and television and radio transcripts focusing on business.

Electronic Encyclopedias

Access one of many subject encyclopedias available through Rutgers University Libraries. A small sample is provided in the box below.

Is there an encyclopedia for that?

We have hundreds of encyclopedias available electronically, here is a small sample:

Assignment: Selecting a topic

Activity 1:

Go to CQ Researcher and using the quick search box on the top, search using the term: plagiarism.

From your list of search results, select the article that was posted on 1/4/2013 (click on the title of the article).

Briefly review the article and the types of elements that are available such as chronology and bibliography [Hint: look at the table of contents on the left.]

Find the button "CiteNow!" and see if the citation format for your class is included.

Browse CQ Researcher to see the types of topics that are included.


Activity 2:

Using the Gale Virtual Reference Library or a specific encyclopedia related to your area of interest, search for a topic you would consider for a term paper.

Find two encyclopedia articles that provide background information about your topic and would help you get started in researching your paper.

See if there is an easy citation tool, so you can keep these citations for future use if you decide to pursue this topic.

Narrowing your topic

Types of sources


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