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Find Quick Overviews and Definitions
- Conduct a keyword search in Library Search.
- Look on the left for "Refine my results" on the search results page.
- Scroll down to "Resource Type" and click on "Show More," to see more than the first few entries.
- Select "Reference Entries" (if available).
- Then, "Apply Filters."
Find In-Depth Background Sources
Specialized encyclopedias, handbooks, or bibliographies are reference materials written by scholars that can offer foundational understanding and cited sources on scholarly topics.
- Run this preset search in Advanced Search, where it searches for: dictionar* OR encyclopedia* OR handbook* OR companion in the Title of the items.
- In the next line, type in your topic as a keyword or phrase. Keep your keywords relatively broad.
- Select Search again.
Cambridge Companions Complete Collection This link opens in a new window
Cambridge Companions on Literature, Classics, Philosophy, Religion, Culture, & Music
CQ Researcher Plus Archive This link opens in a new window
Substantive, non-biased, well-researched discussions of timely topics & issues
Gale in Context: Opposing Viewpoints This link opens in a new window
Covering social issues, this cross-curricular research database supports science, social studies, current events, and language arts classes.
Gale Virtual Reference Library This link opens in a new window
A database of encyclopedias and specialized reference sources for multidisciplinary research.
Oxford Bibliographies This link opens in a new window
Gives background information and provides citations for the best available scholarship across a wide variety of subjects.
Reference Universe This link opens in a new window
Identifies reference works based on your keywords.
Often a good place to get started. However, since it's not authoritative or 100% reliable, it's not a place to stop looking. Make sure to look at the references.
Why Use Background Information?
Background sources can
- Help you see the big picture and contextualize your topic
- Give you a better idea of where to start your research
- Provide an introduction to vocabulary and ideas you'll need to know
- Refer you to other sources