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For English 101 classes, or basic information about library research

Recommended Resources

Where to start your research? How about scholarly encyclopedias!

If you are like a lot of people, you start your research with Wikipedia, or you use a search engine such as Google or Yahoo, and end up at Wikipedia. Encyclopedias like Wikipedia are useful places to start when you don’t know that much about your topic. They can offer a concise introduction and give you ideas for more specific aspects of an issue, as well as suggestions for important books and articles for further reading.

Issues with WikipediaWikipedia logo v.2

Wikipedia is easy to access and can offer very interesting information, not to mention that it is huge, with over 1 million entries in English. But there’s one major issue with Wikipedia – anyone can write or change an entry. You never know who wrote it, and it’s a "moving target," meaning that the content is constantly changing.

Ideally, because each entry can be modified, the “wisdom of the crowd” improves the accuracy of the information. But in practice, writing by committee doesn’t lend itself to elegant prose, and the entries are better for fact-based information than for holistic, contextual information that academic experts can give you. And you have no idea of the authority of the authors.

CQ Researcher logo

Background Info for Public Policy Issues

While it is not a scholarly encyclopedia, CQ Researcher is an excellent resource for introductory information on public policy issues.

  • The articles are around 20 pages long and offer a solid overview of the issue, with lots of references at the end.
  • Topics range from Adoption to World Trade.
  • Each article includes a Pro/Con section, where spokespersons offer two different perspectives on a more specific aspect of the larger issue, such as "Will the Financial Protection Bureau benefit consumers?" within the article on "Financial Misconduct". (If the article is older than 1992, there is no Pro/Con section.)
  • Also, the database goes back to 1923, so you can quickly learn how your issue has been viewed over time.

Hints for Searching CQ Researcher

Think of CQ Researcher as being similar to a good Wikipedia entry. It will offer a general overview of the political issue, while trying to maintain a balanced point of view. There will be an extensive bibliography and suggested readings at the bottom.

  • Type in your general topic, one word or a simple phrase, in the yellow search box at the top of the screen.
  • When reviewing the results, note the date of the article. Ideally, you want an article that is extremely relevant and recently written.
  • To view the article, click on the title in large, black font.
  • If the article is only somewhat related, note the other similar articles in the Issue Tracker box on the right side of the screen. These are by date, most recent first.
  • If you find an article you like, you can email it to yourself via the link at the top.

Sage Knowledge logo

Background Info for Academic Issues

Hints for Sage Knowledge

  • Type in your general topic, one word or a simple phrase, in the oval search box at the top of the screen.
  • When reviewing the results, it is very important that you note the name of the encyclopedia it comes from. Each encyclopedia will have a different focus, so note the title of the encyclopedia along with the title of the entry. An education encyclopedia and a criminal justice encyclopedia will have completely different takes on an issue.
  • To view the encyclopedia entry, click on the title in large, black font.
  • If you find an entry you like, you can download it or email it to yourself via the links at the top. The envelope icon is for emailing the entry. 

Macmillan International Encyclopedia of the Social SciencesExamples of Major Scholarly Encyclopedias

Here are just a few of the major, multi-volume scholarly, subject encyclopedias we have. Talk to a reference librarian for suggestions pertinent to your issue.

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