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ENG 111: Controversial Issues Essay (Argument)

This guide will help you find opinion essays, editorials, and evidence to support an argument.

Pro Web Search

Google Like a Pro

Effective internet searching is as much about eliminating the results you don’t need as it is finding the ones you do. Using the following tips can help you clear away the clutter of results you don’t need — and make it easier to find the results you do.

  • Use quotation marks to search for webpages containing an exact phrase.
  • Use AND and OR to combine search terms.
  • Use parentheses to create more sophisticated searches.
  • Narrow your results to a specific date range.
  • Search for results from one specific website.
  • Use – (the minus sign) to exclude specific terms from results.

Based on the News Literacy Project's Eight Tips to Google Like a Pro

Lateral Reading

How to read laterally:

  • Leave the website, open new tabs, and seek additional information about a website's credibility, reputation, funding, and potential biases.
  • Don't just rely on the information found on the website itself. Don't take their word for it. See what others have to say.
  • Lateral reading allows you to get a more complete perspective on the credibility of a source.

From the Univ of Louisville Libraries Citizen Literacy Toolkit

The ABC Test

Use the ABC test as a quick way to help you determine the credibility of an information source such as a website, article, or book. 


The source of the information

  • Who is the author, publisher, source, or sponsor?
  • What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations?
  • Is the author qualified to write on the topic?
  • What do others have to say about the resource? Use lateral reading! 
    • Search the Internet for information about the resource.
    • Don't just rely on the information presented by the resource itself.


The purpose and point of view of the information

  • What is the purpose of the information? Is it to inform, to teach, to sell, to entertain?
  • Do the authors or sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
  • Is the information fact, opinion, or propaganda?
  • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
  • Are multiple perspectives included? 
  • What bias do you bring to the topic? Are you only looking for sources that confirm your current beliefs?

Be Aware of Confirmation Bias

"The first step in countering confirmation bias is to recognize it in ourselves. Then we can guard against it by getting our news from a wide range of credible sources, reading opinion columns from a variety of viewpoints, and including these varied perspectives in our social media posts."

From the News Literacy Project - "Don't Let Confirmation Bias Narrow Your Perspective."


The timeliness of the information

  • When was the information published or posted?
  • Has the information been revised or updated?
  • Does your topic require current or historical information?
  • Don't forget the basics!
    • Are the links functional? Do they take you to updated information sources?
    • Are there lots of spelling and grammatical errors?

How to Fact-Check

When trying to decide whether or not you can trust information found online - no matter what type of information it is - always ask yourself:

  1. Who is behind the information?
  2. What's the evidence for their claims?
  3. What do other sources say about the organization (or author) and its claims?

These are the same questions used by professional fact checkers. Watch the video below, which is part of the Crash Course series titled Navigating Digital Information, to find out how they do it.