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Library DIY: Finding Other Resources: Background Information

Background Information

Q: I’m starting my research. Where can I find high-quality background information?

If you have a few words or phrases to learn more about:

Check out General Reference sites like Credo Reference, Oxford Reference, or Encyclopedia Britannica.

Example of article in Credo Reference (Diogenes of Sinope from the book "Meet the Philosophers of Ancient Greece")


Credo has many background articles from a wide variety of reference sources including dictionaries, encyclopedias, and pro-con argumentative sources.

Example article from Oxford Reference (Acupuncture entry from the Oxford Companion to Medicine)


Oxford reference has encyclopedias and dictionaries that are highly authoritative but not always as in-depth as credo sources.

Or search in WISE for discipline-specific reference material- especially if you’re looking for a longer article. Try searching WISE for encyclopedia+your broad topic/class or dictionary+your broad topic if you are just looking for general definitions that are more in-depth than what you might get online. This will not work for all topics but may be worth a shot!

WISE search "Encyclopedia bioethics" results including the first result print book "Encyclopedia of bioethics".

Example WISE search for "folklore dictionary" including the first result ebook, "Oxford dictionary of English Folklore"


If you have a topic idea and want to see if there is established research on it:

Books can be a great place to start. Although many academic books will include specific information, their introductions will set up the issue and proposed various solutions or the scholarly conversation on the topic. Academic books will also have bibliographies that you can mine for references.

Keep in mind that in most cases, the topic of the book should be broader than your paper. But a chapter might be helpful

Screenshot of WISE record, "Learning and managing a differentiated classroom:" First page of article "Technological Literacy and diverse learners: English language learners and technology"
A book on my possible assignment topic. This book's topic is broader.

An article on my possible assignment topic. This article's topic is much more narrow in scope.

Other possibilities

Based on your project, your approach may vary. Check out our resources for current news stories to inspire your project, or our primary source resources.

You might also use google to search for an existing bibliography or government report on your topic. By adding [] or [] on to your search, you will be limiting your search to only College or Government websites respectively- these sites tend to be more reliable on most topics.

Not finding what you're looking for? You can email us at

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