Welcome to our Library guide for finding background information. It is intended to serve as a starting point as you search for electronic and print background sources.
Please note that this guide is divided into broad subject areas--General, Humanities, Sciences, and Social Sciences--on the tabs above and into more specific subjects within each broad area. To begin your research, you'll need to determine which of these areas might include your topic; then you can identify a more specific subject within that area. Many topics apply to more than one subject, so you may want to explore multiple subjects that relate to your topic.
You won't find all of our electronic or print background sources in this guide. You can locate others in the GC Library Catalog. For help with your research, just stop by the Library Reference Desk or contact me or another Public Services Librarian directly. We would love to help you!
I welcome your feedback on this guide. If you like it or find a problem with it, please let me know.
When you begin research for a paper or project, you will usually need background information first. This is especially important if you are not very familiar with the subject you are researching or have not decided which aspect of it you want to emphasize. By consulting the types of sources described in this guide, you can find
WHERE TO BEGIN
Because they contain information on almost every subject, background sources and encyclopedias are often the best place to begin research when you don’t know much about your topic. Background sources are excellent for providing the background information previously mentioned.
While general encyclopedias are sometimes logical places to begin research, specialized encyclopedias covering your subject area are usually much more useful and reliable. A subject-specialized encyclopedia may cover your topic in more depth than a general encyclopedia and has been written by authorities on the specific subject.
CHOOSING A BACKGROUND SOURCE
Often a subject may fit into more than one of these areas. Abortion, for example, fits into at least three areas—religion, political science, and biology. Ask a librarian if you are not sure how to categorize your subject. When you have decided which areas to look under, turn to the humanities, social sciences, and sciences sections of this guide for suggested specialized background sources or consult the "Find Reference Sources" page on our website. To find other specialized background sources or encyclopedias, you can
USING A BACKGROUND SOURCE
For efficient and effective use of background sources, keep in mind the following suggestions: