A good starting place, encyclopedias can provide general background information and may suggest directions for research.
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(Jason Goecke via Flickr with Creative Commons)
These resources provide helpful background and history, statistics, and current trends around controversial topics:
The Pew Research Center provides information and reports on "on the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world." A great source of current statistics and analysis.
For national & international news:
U.S. Major Dailies (Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post)Contains comprehensive full text for major newspapers from the U.S. and around the world. Formerly Lexis-Nexis, Provides full text articles for regional, national, and international newspapers.
For a local or regional news: