Background reading includes reference sources like encyclopedias and single topic books. Oftentimes, these resources will include extensive bibliographies or works cited lists that will be helpful in identifying other resources to read. Please click here for resources to help you get started.
While doing initial research and background reading, you should be taking notes on:
- topics that interest you
- questions you have about the topic
- people, places and events related to the topic (these can be used as keywords later!)
- other potential sources (often found under “Further Reading”, “Suggested Reading” or “Bibliography”)
****A bit about Wikipedia – Wikipedia is a great resource to help you get started. You cannot cite Wikipedia in your paper, but if you go to Wiki pages related to your topic, they will often have references, sources and additional links at the bottom of the page that you can check out for more information. If you have any question about the validity of a website, please ask your librarian.****
Background Reading Resources:
Putnam Library has specialized single and multi-volume sets of encyclopedias, almanacs, dictionaries, handbooks, atlases, etc. in the print reference collection that provide you with both primary and secondary source material. Please ask your librarian for help with print reference.
ABC-Clio Social Databases: A great starting place to find quick background info pertaining to American history, government, war, etc. Similar to an encyclopedia.
Gale Virtual Reference Book: Online reference encyclopedias.
Opposing Viewpoints: Great overview of a variety of topics. Includes references articles as well as journal articles, primary sources and more!
EBSCO Discovery: Good place to search for reference articles and journal articles.
US History in Context: Reference articles, primary sources and more.
History Study Center: A variety of topics; especially helpful for journal articles and reference sources.
Research Starters/Topic Centers
ABC-CLIO and EBSCO Discovery both have research starters for many topics. If you search for a general topic (i.e., The Vietnam War) a research starter will be the first thing listed. It will provide broad background information as well as links to other articles that are related.