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Sometimes when you're starting a new class or researching a new topic, it can be tough to know where to begin looking for resources or where to start on a topic. Reference databases provide introductory information across all academic disciplines with instant access to encyclopedias, dictionaries, biographies and more. Below is a list of reference databases useful for reference and background information.
What is Background Information?
It’s reading up on the subject before you make too many decisions about how you’re going to approach your research. It introduces you to a topic before you dive in, pretending to be an expert.
You wouldn’t start to build a house without a floor plan, would you? Surely, you wouldn’t cook a seven course meal without checking on the ingredients you need? For both building a house and preparing an elaborate meal, planning is essential.
Background information serves the same purpose in research. It is the foundation on which you build good research.
Why Background Information is Important?
- It helps you to focus on names, dates, events, organizations, terms, etc., associated with a topic.
- It can help you to formulate/reformulate your topic (or, to put it another way, it can help you decide whether to broaden or narrow your topic).
- Background sources might include bibliographies that you can use to find additional sources for your project.
Where do you find background information?
Encyclopedias are a good sources for background information. You may choose to use a general encyclopedia, such as Encyclopedia Britannica, or a specialized encyclopedia such as International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Credo Reference Database contains hundreds encyclopedias, dictionaries, atlases, and handbooks covering a wide range of subjects in all disciplines. Credo Reference is a great source for reliable background information on your topic. Credo is a great place to start your research as it is helpful in finding definitions, overviews, background information and basic facts for your research.
Database Names and Descriptions
Credo Reference Database
Contains the full text of over 700 encyclopedias, dictionaries, bilingual dictionaries, and other reference books covering all major subject areas. Thousands of Topics Pages provide articles from different reference sources, arranged by subject. Includes “gadgets” for finding images, definitions, people, pronunciations, quotations, and measurement conversations, as well as a concept map feature for help identifying keywords and broadening or narrowing a topic.
Encyclopædia Britannica Online Academic Edition
The Encyclopædia Britannica database includes thousands of articles from the printed Encyclopædia Britannica, including thousands more that are not found in the print set. The resource also includes year-in-review articles from recent yearbooks, The Britannica Student Encyclopedia, and Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary and Thesaurus. Most articles are brief or of moderate length and discuss people, places, institutions, things, or concepts. Longer articles are divided into separate sections for easier access and more accurate searching.
The database also includes an extensive World Atlas linking users to maps, flags, statistics, and more for many countries. The Web Sites section in each article includes links to related Web sites, selected for content by Britannica editors.
Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia
Funk and Wagnall's New World Encyclopedia is a general encyclopedia containing over 25,000 information segments appropriate for the research needs of students.
Literacy Reference Center
Literary Reference Center is a full-text database that combines information from major respected reference works, books, and literary journals as well as original content from EBSCO Publishing. Use this database to find "articles of literary criticism; author biographies; literary journals; book reviews; classic and contemporary poems and short stories; classic novels; author interviews; and images of key literary figures."
This database provides abstracts and indexing for over 2,000 publications as well as full text for over 1,000 journals and general magazines covering nearly all subjects including general reference, business, health, education, general science, multicultural issues, and much more. This resource also contains full text for more than 50 reference books.
Oxford Art Online
Oxford Art Online provides access to Grove Art Online, a collection of art encyclopedias and image collections. Users can also choose to view biographies, subject entries, or images when searching or browsing. Content includes more than 23,000 subject entries, 21,000 biographies, 500,000 bibliographic citations, 40,000 image links and 5,000 images contained within Grove Art Online. Thematic timelines and learning resources also provide users with tools for navigating the content.
Oxford English Dictionary
The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is widely regarded as the accepted authority on the English language. It is an unsurpassed guide to the meaning, history, and pronunciation of 600,000 words— past and present—from across the English-speaking world.
As a historical dictionary, the OED is very different from Dictionaries of current English, in which the focus is on present-day meanings. You’ll still find present-day meanings in the OED, but you’ll also find the history of individual words, and of the language—traced through 3 million quotations, from classic literature and specialist periodicals to film scripts and cookery books.
History Reference Center
Comprehensive history reference database offering full text from more than 2,000 reference books, encyclopedias, non-fiction books, and leading history periodicals. Also includes thousands of historical documents, 81,000 biographies, historical photos and ma3s, and more than 80 hours of historical video.
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy organizes scholars from around the world in philosophy and related disciplines to create and maintain an up-to-date reference work.
Research Assistance Service
The Smith Library staff is ready to answer your questions. Our Reference Collection includes books/eBooks in all subject areas, and we can assist you in finding the right resources. We provide reference service during regular business hours, and questions are taken over the phone (770) 484-1204 (ext.5756). If you are unable to contact us during regular business hours, you may submit your question by email (Library@lutherrice.edu) The Library will typically respond to e-mail requests within twenty-four weekday hours, but response time may vary, depending on the nature of your question.
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