For your course, you may have to choose articles that present different viewpoints. This can be a challenging task without an easy process to follow. In short, this is your opportunity to use the critical thinking skills you've been developing throughout your life and education.
If you used nouns and noun phrases as your search terms, and not adjectives that can be biased (like "unfavorable" or "harmful"), you will hopefully have a variety of information in your search results on your topic.
By reading the abstracts and skimming the articles, you should be able to identify the author's perspective and potential bias. Take good notes on what you find. Look up what isn't familiar to you in the general reference databases and encyclopedias I linked to earlier.
There's no easy process, but there is a database from Gale that is designed to help with this task. Gale Opposing Viewpoints in Context (link below) includes categories for different topics, but beware: You shouldn't consider this database as an "easy button" that relieves you of the process I described above, but rather you still need to bring your critical thinking into play when you use it. Be sure to check out the "Further Reading" sections on the articles to catapult your research forward!
Full text database providing essays from books, magazine and news articles, statistics, primary documents, and Web sites present diverse views on many issues. Also a great source of ideas for research papers.
Another great resource is a website called ProCon.org.
"ProCon.org is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit nonpartisan public charity that provides well-sourced pro, con, and related research on more than 50 controversial issues, from gun control and death penalty to illegal immigration and alternative energy. With more than 12,000 pages of highly curated, referenced content, ProCon.org provides a platform for people to question information, evaluate opposing views, and debate them in a respectful way."
New York Times - Room for Debates
Here is another great resource, the 'Room for Debate' RSS feed from the New York Times. This feed is constantly refreshed and includes current topics that are trending in public discourse. When you click on a topic, you'll find a variety of perspectives and voices that weigh in on the issues of the day.
If you've gotten this far with your topic, chances are you have identified a topic with a feasible scope. If, however, you feel like you've painted yourself into a corner and are not sure how to pull off your paper, you might need to reconsider your original research question. This is your permission to step back from your topic and an invitation to go back through steps 1-4 to be sure you're on the right track.
Sometimes we can't see the forest for the trees, which is a weird expression, but sometimes we get bogged down in the details and fail to see the big picture. If you are experiencing any of these metaphors involving paint or trees, now would be a great time to visit your professor during office hours or to make an appointment with a librarian for a research consultation.
If you're not sure you need an appointment, at least go back through the 'Questions to Refine Your Topic' in Step 1 and be sure you're not missing a key subtopic in the question you're investigating.
How to Read a Scholarly Article
Take a Moment to Reflect
This is a moment for you to reflect upon the work that you have done. Why? Because reflection is part of the research process!
Think especially about the search terms you have used so far. Where did they take you? Did you find what you were expecting? Are there other synonyms that you still have to try? Which searches worked well and which ones didn't? Now is a good time to do a couple of experiments. You may find you need to make minor tweaks to your topic or major changes. Also, consider tracking your research in a spreadsheet or research journal of some sort. You'd hate to run the same searches over and over again. And you might just start to identify some patterns in your thinking that could help you pivot into a new direction.
If you like the idea of tracking your research, here's a sample to give you an idea of what that might look like: