Reference works like encyclopedias and atlases contain background information that help inform you so that you're ready to do foreground research. What's the difference? Typically scholars do not cite background information because the information is already well known in their field or easy to find. Foreground research is what I call the stuff that you cite - the journal articles, books, and other sources you use to build your arguments and inform your projects and papers.
Explore these databases below to learn more about the context (the people, places, eras, themes) of your research topic. Taking time to do this before diving into the databases can help you search more efficiently later on.
Tip! Keep your eyes peeled for new keywords!
As you gather background information about your topic, your research question may change and that’s okay. Background information should inform you of what’s already known about your topic so that you can ask questions that truly require research to answer. Sometimes background information can be called “reference information.” In fact, there’s a whole section of Norlin Library that has reference materials.
One place you can start is Wikipedia, but be sure to check other sources including library subscription encyclopedias (see links in the "Reference Databases" box). You can use Wikipedia to:
Books often contain general overviews of a topic. Search OneSearch or Chinook to find books on your topic.
Find a book that is related to your topic, then use it's Subject Headings to search for similar books. Reference books often have Subject Headings that include terms like Dictionaries, Encyclopedias, Characters, Biographies, Bibliographies, etc.
|Latin American literature -- Dictionaries|
|Portuguese language -- Glossaries, vocabularies, etc|
|Authors, Latin American -- Biography -- Dictionaries|
|Theater -- Latin America -- Dictionaries|
|Literary criticism -- European -- Spanish & Portuguese.|
Using your research question, identify the main concepts that are involved. Try to avoid general words like 'impact' or 'effect' because they are going to appear in all sorts of writings from many different fields. Stick to concepts unique to your research question. These concepts can be translated into keywords for searching.
Use the link below to learn more about how to develop strong search terms.