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How to Research for a Debate Using Library Resources: Defining the Terms of Your Debate

Recommended resources for researching a debate topic

Defining the Terms of Your Debate Is Crucial to Winning a Case

 St.Francis Prep Team with trophies Debates tend to work best when both sides have a clear understanding of all terms in the resolution. If your definitions are questioned, or you don't agree with your opponents definitions, you should defend your position with authoritative reference sources. Many debates focus on the words explicitly stated in the resolution. However, understanding philosophical theories behind various abstract concepts, such as  "justice," "freedom" and "fairness," is crucial to winning a debate. Below you will find reference sources with authoritative definitions and introductory guides to popular debate subjects. For systematic study of debate vocabulary, read a number of introductory guides on this page.

Have a Question About our Resources ?

Very Short Introductions to Key Debate Subjects

Oxford Handbooks For Debaters

Reference Resources with Authoritative Definitions of Terms

Want to figure out the difference between Utopianism and Utilitarianism ?

It's essential to compare definitions of all terms in a couple of different resources. For example, your can look at the definition of utilitarianism in Continuum Encyclopedia of British Philosophy and compare it to the one found in Gale Encyclopedia of Philosophy. For a more substantial overview of Utilitarianism, read Utilitarianism: A Very Short Introduction. To see how utilitarianism compares to other ethical theories, read Ethics by Peter Cave or Ethics 101 by Brian Boone.To figure out how Utilitarianism compares to Utopianism, read Utopianism: A Very Short Introduction. Still wondering if utilitarianism is a good framework for your case? Read Utilitarianism as a Criterion for State Action in Oxford Handbook of Public Choice, Vol 1.

To further advance your understanding of utilitarianism, utopianism, or any other complex concept,  use Online Journals, Newspapers,Periodicals and Scholarly E-Books.

Finding Online Journals, Newspapers, Periodicals and Scholarly E-Books

The Find E-Journals and E-Books by Title Page is the best place to locate journals in electronic format and scholarly e-books.

  • Searching and Browsing: This page allows you to search by:
    • Title or ISSN/ISBN
    • By journals only, books only, or both
    • You can also browse by letter or subject
  • Searching for Periodicals: Although the title of the page says "journals" this page will help you find electronic versions of journals, newspapers, and other periodicals. When you find the title of the serial you are looking for the description will display the following:
    • The date coverage
    • The database the serial is in (click on the database name to access the serial)
    • Whether the database is available remotely or onsite only
  • Searching for Scholarly E-Books
    • If you are looking for books by scholarly publishers or text books this is the place to do it. Many of these books you will not find in NYPL's other e-book applications, such as Simply-E, Overdrive or 3M because they are part of collections specifically curated for different research topics.

Need an alternative primer to subject ? Try Beginners Guide Series

What Every Debater Needs to Know

A number of titles in What Everyone Needs to Know , another excellent series from Oxford, can be of great help to all debaters.