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WR121 Rupert: Justice: Topic Selection

A guide for Jill Rupert's WR 121 class with theme Justice

Gather Search Language as You Explore

As you are reading sources and refining your topic, write words and phrases that you could use to find more information on your topic. Search terms can be the names of people, important events or legislation related to your topic. There may be a preferred term or label used to describe your topic.

Choose one of these tools to use for collecting keywords, subject terms, topic language, and research ideas

  • Take out a piece of paper and a writing utensil and take handwritten notes
  • Open a word document and save it to the desktop. Copy and paste or type your notes. Save your work as you go! 
  • Go to your Google Drive and create a Google Doc.Copy and paste or type your notes. 

Online Topic Selection Tools

There are a few library tools that are especially helpful in the early stages of research. They can help you explore your topic, generate keywords and get a sense for how much information you will find on your topic.  They are:

Gale PowerSearch Topic Finder - An interesting visual way to explore your topic and find potential sources at the same time.

Library Search - Find books and articles in print and full text online.

CQ Researcher - An online magazine with good background information on a variety of social issues

Student Resource in Context - A database that finds background information, news, videos, scholarly journals and popular magazines.

Films on Demand - A large collection of streaming video. Video is a great complement to text in the topic selection process.

Picking Your Topic IS Research

Video created by NCSU Libraries.License, credits, and contact information can be found at

Just Mercy

Read Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. Research how much a lawyer can help or hinder his/her client’s case. How do sentencing guidelines or mandatory sentences create or prevent justice?

Ta-Nehisi Coates

Read articles and blogs and tweets by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Watch his speeches. Research the impact and reception of his work.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Read Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Go visit the Oregon State Hospital in Salem where the movie based on this book was filmed. Take their tour. Research the way the mentally ill are managed by the criminal justice system and other government systems.

The New Jim Crow

Read The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. Research the history of the Emancipation Proclamation and its aftermath or research the Civil Rights movement and its aftermath.

Cost of the Criminal Justice System

Consider the cost of the criminal justice system. Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey has recently written about it. Research programs or methods that are more successful or cost effective.

The Innocence Project

Investigate the Innocence Project. Research some of the cases it has handled. Investigate any cases that it has been involved with in Oregon. Research whether there are any cases it should pay attention to here.

Go Set A Watchman

Read Harper Lee’s Go Set A Watchman and research the controversy surrounding its publication.

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