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Langue Française, Littérature et Culture: Informations d'Arrière-plan

Reference Databases

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 Typically scholars do not cite background information because the information is already well known in their field or easy to find.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. Keep your eyes peeled for new keywords!

Using Wikipedia for Research and other Reference Sources

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.


Wikipedia sphere logo Wikipedia name text

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:

  1. Do some initial searching and learn about related topics
  2. Find keywords that you can use in database searches
  3. Find links to references to useful, and hopefully, credible sources

Be careful:

  1. Do not cite to Wikipedia. Since anyone can edit this online resource, it can be difficult to cite an author or evaluate that author for credibility
  2. Do not believe everything you read on Wikipedia. Try verifying the information through another credible source, like a library reference database

Books on French Language or French-Speaking Cutlures

Les Dictionnaires

Painting of a girl reading   
Studying French linguistics?
   Or, just need to brush up on grammar or writing?
   Try these sources and tools!

Background Information in Books

books icon from noun project

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.  

Grammar Resources from the Library Catalog

University Libraries has many resources available on French Grammar. The books below are just a few of our holdings. Be sure to search OneSearch and Chinook for more!