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Issues: Understanding Controversy and Society

By Alice Kurtz - Posted May 1, 2007
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Overall Rating:4 Stars
Ease of Use:A
Product Support:A

Company: ABC-CLIO, 130 Cremona Drive, Santa Barbara, CA 93117. Phone: (805) 968-1911; Fax: (805) 968-9685. Internet:

Price: $499 per year for unlimited access at school and at home.

Audience: High school (grades 9-12).

Format: Online subscription database.

Minimum System Requirements: A computer with Internet access and a cookie- and JavaScript-enabled browser.

For Windows systems, the following are supported: Internet Explorer 5.0 or later, Netscape Navigator 7.0 or later, Mozilla Firefox 1.0 or later.

For Macintosh systems: Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.0 or later, Netscape Navigator 7.0 or later, Mozilla Firefox 1.0 or later, Apple Safari 1.0 or later. Apple QuickTime plug-in is required to view video and audio.

The Macromedia Flash Player 6 plug-in is required to view some interactive sections of the site. A 56K modem or faster connection is recommended. Description: Issues: Understanding Controversy and Society offers a ready reference database that examines today's major social issues. The material includes a historical background on a chosen topic and varying perspectives on selected issues written by researchers and scholars.

Reviewer Comments:

Installation: The database is accessed by an assigned username and password. An institution may allow login with access by username/password and by IP address. Users can access an institution's additional subscription ABC-CLIO Web sites by using the Switch Sites pull-down menu located in the masthead at the top of each site. Installation Rating: A

Content/Features: The Issues: Understanding Controversy and Society database covers more than 150 issues, including abortion, civil rights, eating disorders, environmental concerns, and identity theft. The material features more than 15,000 primary and secondary sources, as well as 4,000 multimedia reference entries offering audio, video, and photographic images.

Using multiple pathways for research, students can look at an issue from varied perspectives, research current facts and figures on an issue, examine a historical overview of a single issue, or investigate the most current outlook for issues facing the nation and the world.

Topics may be explored through one of six general categories, by a single specific issue, or by a general search using the text search box. The six general categories include Society, Criminal Justice, Environment, Gender/Ethnicity, Government/Law/Politics, Science/Technology. Each category is subdivided into 24-26 issues. A tabbed toolbar allows the user to move easily among the Home, Issues, Research, Explore, Help, and Dictionary features.

The search process begins at the home page. Here, students will also find a feature titled From the Headlines that offers current topics in the news. At the time of this review, the subject was War and the Environment.

The Issues tab offers access to the six broad category groupings, each containing an array of issues. Under the Environment tab, for example, the range of issues includes animal rights, acid rain, nuclear power, ozone depletion, rainforests, overpopulation, and more. Each issue area is divided into several distinct segments, with sidebars of additional reading, related topics, primary sources, and audio/video files.

Once an issue has been selected, study options include a general historical overview, people and organizations important to the topic, timelines, facts and tables, and a current view or outlook on what will happen with the issue in the next few years. A CLIOview tab offers a comparison of information on the issue in statistical form. Up to three categories can be displayed simultaneously.

The Research tab allows students to search for reference content by category or issue or to perform a general search using the text search box.

The Explore tab opens with a key question about an issue. This entire segment might be viewed as a guided discovery for understanding issues; there is no single definitive answer to the questions posed here. This section also offers ideas for research papers.

For this review, my exploration of the Environment topic encountered the question, "Should the Federal government preserve or conserve natural resources?" An essay introduced the topic. The next tabbed segment, Need to Know, led to a survey of the historical relationship of the federal government with the environment. Dilemma, the next segment, offered varying perspectives on the key question, as well as a conclusion to the pro and con essays.

The Investigate segment focuses on one part of the larger issue. In my Environment exploration, the segment examined the role of oil by addressing the question, "Where does oil fit in?"

The Doing More tab poses a student research dilemma. For the environmental issue, the question was, "Where does the U.S. rank on the environmental scale?" This area provides additional questions to be considered by the user, as well as extension activities for a class or group.

Each tabbed segment of the Explore feature offers a sidebar of linked sources, people and organizations, primary documents, pictures, quotes, visuals, and more that contribute to an understanding or a viewpoint about the issue under consideration.

The Dictionary tab links to a Merriam-Webster dictionary via a pop-up window.

The Help tab takes the user to a page of frequently asked questions that cover site access, site content, and assistance and information, including tech support phone numbers. The page also offers a link to a downloadable user guide available as a Word document or a PDF file. Plug-in updates are available here. Content/Features Rating: A

Ease of Use: The database is very easy to use. The tabbed toolbar on each page and within each segment offers very easy navigation. The graphic interface is clear and makes reading easy.

The readability of the articles varies quite a bit, but most of the materials are within the reading comprehension range of high school students and are not overly long. The issue-related sidebars with linked resources add another dimension for students who need access to appropriate primary sources, court cases, speeches, and quotations to enhance understanding and for a deeper study of the issue. Ease of Use Rating: A

Product Support: Product support is available through email or a toll-free telephone number. Product Support Rating: A

Recommendation: The Issues: Understanding Controversy and Society database provides aggregate information, as well as context, analysis, and perspective on a variety of controversial issues. The ease of use makes this a great tool for social science instruction as well as debate preparation.

The Explore segment provides a terrific teaching tool for modeling the process of examining controversial issues. The key questions, background building, perspectives, and related investigations provide an opportunity for independent research and for developing the inquiry method.

The topics covered in the database are broad and of interest to high school students. They also represent those issues at the forefront of our societal concerns today.

Although I would have liked to see more discussion of economic points within many of the issues, the information was generally thought-provoking and would lead to a good understanding of an issue. The price, the design, and the flexible uses of this database make it an excellent tool for purchase. Highly recommended.

Reviewer: Alice Kurtz, 5/6 grade teacher, Irving B. Weber School, Iowa City, IA. 

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