Sociology Resources

Finding and Using Background Materials

There are many types of background materials: encyclopedias (both general and subject specific), handbooks, and bibliographies.  These are sometimes known as tertiary sources.  Tertiary sources are books and articles that synthesize and report on secondary sources for general readers, such as text books, articles in encyclopedias, and articles in popular publications.

Why uses a background source? It can save you time by helping you with the groundwork below:

  • Get an overview of a new or complex topic
  • Find out the names of key players in a given area
  • Locate terms that you can use in your research
  • Help narrow (or expand) your topic
  • Locate a bibliography of sources to help you start your research.

To locate a handbook, try the sample search in using the advanced search option in Library Catalog as shown below

To locate an encyclopedia

To locate a bibliography

Librarian for Sociology, MHS and Public Policy Studies

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Pam Morgan
I am currently on intermittent leave. Research assistance is available via the email me button above.