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What is a background source?
Background sources are written for a general audience and are intended to give an overview of a topic, fill gaps in the reader’s knowledge, and provide context for deeper understanding. Examples include Wikipedia, introductory textbooks, and reference works such as encyclopedias, dictionaries, and handbooks. They can be a useful place to start your research and can assist in selecting a topic for a research project, locating basic information and key facts, defining important words and concepts, and getting suggestions for additional sources to consult.
Typical characteristics of background sources:
- intended to be informative
- provide context, background, or summary information
- present shared information and established facts; information is uncontested
- offer suggestions for additional sources of information on the topic
American National Biography
Biographical information on tens of thousands of prominent Americans. Entries are signed by the authors and include bibliographic references.
Gale Virtual Reference Library
Handbooks, dictionaries, encyclopedias in a wide range of subject areas, including Arts, Biography, Business, Education, Environment, History, Law, Literature, Medicine, Multicultural Studies, Nation and World, Religion, Science, and Social Sciences.
Oxford English Dictionary
Oxford English Dictionary is the accepted authority on the evolution of the English language over the last millennium. It is a guide to the meaning, history, and pronunciation of over half a million words, both present and past. It traces the usage of words through 2.5 million quotations from a wide range of international English language sources, from classic literature and specialist periodicals to film scripts and cookery books. The OED covers words from across the English-speaking world, from North America to South Africa, from Australia and New Zealand to the Caribbean. It also offers the best in etymological analysis, listings of variant spellings, and shows pronunciation using the International Phonetic Alphabet.The online OED corresponds to the Second Edition (20 volumes in print).
Hundreds of dictionaries, general reference, language reference, and subject reference works from Oxford University Press.
Oxford Research Encyclopedias
Designed to be an authoritative resource of reference content in a wide array of academic fields, including the humanities, social sciences, and science.
Encyclopedia & Atlases
Encyclopedia of American Religious History by
Call Number: Main Reference BL2525 .Q44 2001
Publication Date: 2001-10-01
This volume charts new territory in its coverage of religious history and diversity in the United States. Special emphasis has been given to recent developments in American religious life and on the historical contributions of people long neglected by religious historians, including African Americans, Native Americans, and women.
Encyclopedia of the North American Colonies by
Call Number: Main Oversize E45 .E53 1993
Publication Date: 1993-12-01
This covers the colonial experience from the 11th-century Norse settlers in Newfoundland to the Spanish in New Mexico and the Russians in 1850s Alaska. Articles speak to the daily circumstances, historical events and prevailing climates of thought that gave shape and purpose to people's lives during the centuries of imperial expansion and settlement.