By Holly Hibner
If there’s one source I love during a presidential election year, it is the Opposing Viewpoints In Context database! This is a librarian’s dream because our patrons are looking for information on all kinds of controversial topics, and matching their own stance to that of the candidates. Opposing Viewpoints presents all sides to pressing social issues.
This has been a particularly divisive election. In my library, we have seen even more social issues research related to the election than in past presidential election years. People are forming strong positions on all kinds of topics, from global warming and immigration to campaign finance and gun control. Thankfully, they have access to a reputable, non-partisan database like Opposing Viewpoints to shape their opinions.
Opposing Viewpoints In Context presents the same accessible, easy to use interface as the other Gale databases. One look and patrons will recognize the consistency of Gale’s database platform. That is one of my favorite things about all Gale databases: they are easy to teach patrons to use because they all have similar functionality. There is always a search box at the top of the page. There is always a clear icon for advanced search and bookmarks. There are links on the sides of every page that link to specific types of documents (like maps, images, magazines, or audio). They all have the ability to email an article, highlight and make notes to an article, and now most of them integrate seamlessly with Google Drive and Google Classroom.
Upon entry to the Opposing Viewpoints In Context database, there is a featured topic at the top. Today that topic is the Black Lives Matter movement. It is timely, and links to related issues like racial profiling, affirmative action, crime, and civil rights. With one click, researchers are rewarded with a portal page that connects to all kinds of pertinent information. There are, of course, links to images, videos, audios, and biographies, in addition to articles in academic journals, statistics, links to websites, and a category called “viewpoint essays.”
Back on that homepage, if the featured topic is not what you were after, you can easily choose from lots of updated topics, or click on “Browse Issues” for a complete list. It is quite an exhaustive list, too! A class of eighth grade students visited my library recently to learn how to use the library and work on their social issues research papers. Many of them were stumped on choosing a topic, so pointing them to the “Browse Issues” list in Opposing Viewpoints was perfect. Not only did it help them choose a topic, but it also helped them write a thesis statement. Opposing Viewpoints carefully and completely lays out all sides to the issues with a general overview of the topic right on the topic page.
Returning to my election example, I spoke to a concerned citizen at the reference desk at my library who wanted to understand more of the issues that would be a part of the presidential debate. She wanted to do some reading on subjects like immigration, health care, and national security so that she would better understand both the questions and the candidates’ answers when she was watching the debate. I pointed her directly to Opposing Viewpoints In Context so that she could learn about the issues and all sides of the debate that could be presented by the candidates. In fact, a search for the candidates’ names in Opposing Viewpoints leads you right to information specific to their statements, actions, and platforms.
In addition to presidential debates, high school and college debate teams will also find this database to be an invaluable resource. The National Debate Topic for 2016-2017 is “Economic and Political Relations between the United States and China,” and there is comprehensive coverage of related issues in Opposing Viewpoints.
Opposing Viewpoints In Context now has a responsive design so that it is mobile-friendly. Students and library patrons often use this database via their phones and tablets. They will find the map tool especially strong on mobile devices. For example, if you choose the “Maps” link at the top of the database and then choose a topic, a map appears with very useful data. I chose “Carbon Offsets” and was rewarded with a map where I could choose the year and choose different states to see carbon emissions in that state. Callout boxes pop up clearly to report the data for each state as you move your finger (mobile) or mouse (desktop) over them.
Teachers, there is something special for you in this database too! Opposing Viewpoints has a “Curriculum Standards” link at the top of the page. You can get national or state standards, such as social studies and science content expectations for various grade levels. The eighth graders who visited my library, for example, are expected to learn concepts like “Public Discourse, Decision Making, and Citizen Involvement.” If you drill down to the final layer of this curriculum standard, you will come to a set of links to subject results in the Opposing Viewpoints database that have to do with Constitutional Law (like “Gay Marriage” and “Hate Crime”) and Social Action (like “Celebrity Activism”). Not only can teachers be sure that their lessons satisfy curriculum standards, but the actual content is there as well.
On a final note, Opposing Viewpoints is an all-around great resource for research on social issues. Patrons can trust the information presented, and be assured that the content is complete. All sides to just about any social issue are included in great detail, in a variety of formats, and partnered with productivity tools. By integrating Google Apps for Education—Gmail, Classroom, Drive, Docs, and more—Gale helps educators improve student engagement, encourage collaboration, and foster critical thinking, from anywhere and on any device.