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Sociology

Why Use Reference Sources for Background Information?

Reference books can help you:

  • Explore a topic: find out about this subject, trends, issues, etc.
  • Identify and define unfamiliar terms or people in your reading
  • Find references to other books and articles on the subject
  • Find specific keywords to use in your online searches

Need some more background information about concepts you learned about in class today?  Are you writing a paper on a topic that's new to you?  Not sure what topic to select for your paper?  Answer yes to any of these questions, and a subject-specific encyclopedia might be perfect for you.

Library encyclopedias and dictionaries aren't searchable or freely available on the web, You will need to login in with your WMU ID. The cool thing is that these sources are scholarly resources written by an experts in the field and reviewed for accuracy!

Wikipedia is a common starting point for many people researching a new topic, but unlike scholarly subject-specific encyclopedias, most professors will not allow you to cite Wikipedia as a reference.  View this video tutorial, Wikipedia: Beneath the Surface, from North Carolina State University Libraries for more information about how Wikipedia works and its information quality.

Online Reference Databases

Try these databases to search through many encyclopedias at once:

Selective List of Dictionaries and Encyclopedias

Why Use Encyclopedias?

www.sxc.hu topfer 969874

Specialized encyclopedias contain background information on a topic and can give you ideas for narrowing your topic.

Why use reference materials to find background information.  Reference books can help you:

  • Explore a topic: find out about this subject, trends, issues, etc.
  • Identify and define unfamiliar terms or people in your reading
  • Find references to other books and articles on the subject
  • Find specific keywords to use in your online searches

Need some more background information about concepts you learned about in class today?  Are you writing a paper on a topic that's new to you?  Not sure what topic to select for your paper?  Answer yes to any of these questions, and a subject-specific encyclopedia might be perfect for you.

Library encyclopedias and dictionaries aren't searchable or freely available on the web, You will need to login in with your WMU ID. The cool thing is that these sources are scholarly resources written by an experts in the field and reviewed for accuracy!

Wikipedia is a common starting point for many people researching a new topic, but unlike scholarly subject-specific encyclopedias, most professors will not allow you to cite Wikipedia as a reference.  View this video tutorial, Wikipedia: Beneath the Surface, from North Carolina State University Libraries for more information about how Wikipedia works and its information quality.

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Brad Dennis
Librarian:
Phone: 269-387-1581
Office: Waldo 1012