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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.
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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. Keep your keywords relatively broad.
Cambridge Companions Complete Collection
Cambridge Companions on Literature, Classics, Philosophy, Religion, Culture, & Music
CQ Researcher Plus Archive
Substantive, non-biased, well-researched discussions of timely topics & issues
Reference resources from 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.
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
you to other sources