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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
you to other sources
Library Search for Background Sources
Provides all-in-one searching for articles, books, digital media, and more. Includes the SMU Libraries' collections in addition to almost all of the 300+ subscription databases.
Find Quick Overviews and Definitions
Use Library Search to find resources for your topic.
After you search, look on the left for "Refine my results."
Scroll down to "Resource Type."
Click on "Show More," to see more than the first few entries.
Select "Reference Entries" (if available).
Then, "Apply Filters."
Find Subject Encyclopedias and In-Depth Background Sources
Go to Advanced Search
Select Library Catalog
Limit to the Title contains and Search for: dictionar* OR encyclopedia* OR handbook* OR companion
In the next line, type in your topic as a keyword or phrase
Cambridge Companions Complete Collection
Comprised of the Cambridge Companions in Literature and Classics, the Cambridge Companions in Philosophy, Religion and Culture and the Companions in Music.
CQ Researcher Plus Archive
Substantive, non-biased, well-researched discussions of timely topics and issues, such as: immigration, climate change, marijuana decriminalization, and LBGTQ+ rights.
General reference resource for researchers at any level that provides a variety of content types spanning across many disciplines.
Gale in Context: Opposing Viewpoints
Covering social issues, this cross-curricular research database supports science, social studies, current events, and language arts classes.
Gale Virtual Reference Library
A database of encyclopedias and specialized reference sources for multidisciplinary research.
Gives background information and provides citations for the best available scholarship across a wide variety of subjects.
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.