Skip to Main Content

Starting Your Research: 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

Find Overviews and Definitions

Search in Library Search to find quick overviews and definitions.

  1. Conduct a keyword search in Library Search
  2. Look on the left for "Refine my results" on the search results page.
  3. Scroll down to "Resource Type" and click on "Show More," to see more than the first few entries.
  4. Select "Reference Entries" (if available).
  5. Then, "Apply Filters."

Refine Results by Resource Type, "Reference Entries"

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.

  1. Run this preset search in Advanced Search, where it searches for: dictionar* OR encyclopedia* OR handbook* OR companion in the Title of the items.
  2. In the next line, type in your topic as a keyword or phrase. Keep your keywords relatively broad.
  3. Select Search again.

Search for dictionar* OR encyclopedia* OR handbook OR companion in the Title, and keyword search for colonialism OR imperialism

Recommended Resources