Searching for Background Information in Electronic Reference Databases
When you are getting ready to do library research, the first thing you need to do after you select your research topic is get background information on it. Gaining an understanding of the topic, interrelated issues surrounding it, and the controversies about it will allow you to begin to develop your research question. In addition, you will discover terminology, including synonyms and related terms, which you can use as search terms.
The WSU University Libraries (UL) have a collection on electronic reference sources that provide credible, authoritative background information. It is true that you could search Wikipedia; however, the reliability of articles in Wikipedia is questionable since most of the time anyone can write or edit an article. In addition to having the electronic version of the Encyclopedia Britannica, the UL has some electronic databases containing large numbers of reference sources:
Credo Reference -- Over 400 reference titles from over 70 publishers covering every major subject.
Gale Virtual Reference Library -- Collection of ebook reference works in all disciplines including multivolume encyclopedias, biographical directories, business plan handbooks, consumer health references, dictionaries, etc
Knovel – provides online access to engineering and science reference handbooks, databases, etc.
Oxford Art Online -- Online version of the comprehensive art reference work -- Oxford Dictionary of Art (formerly Grove Dictionary of Art). Covers all visual arts from prehistory to the present.
Oxford Music Online -- Online version of The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (2nd ed.), The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, and The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz (2nd ed.).
Oxford Reference Online: Premium -- Full-text to dictionaries, reference books, and encyclopedias published by Oxford University Press in a broad range of subjects: general reference, language, science and medicine, humanities and social sciences, and Business.
To access these databases and all the other electronic databases to which the UL subscribes, go to the A-Z List of Databases. Please note: if you are not using a computer on the WSU campus network, you will need to type in your myWSU ID and password.