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GEO 4340: Fundamental Themes in Geography: Finding Background Info

Tips for Success

Gathering background information, getting a general overview, and building context for your topic are some of the first steps to doing research. You may also pick up related terms, concepts, and synonyms you can use in your searching.

Some good places to look for background information are:

  • Encyclopedias
  • Dictionaries
  • Handbooks
  • Basic books (handbooks, possibly textbooks)

Libraries have subject-specific encyclopedias and dictionaries that have more information than reference books you may have seen before. 


Other Reference Resources

The library has databases that are collections of encyclopedias, dictionaries, and other reference works.

SAGE eReference

A collection of onine reference material that covers sociology, social work, multicultural and gender studies,political science, psychology, anthropology, criminal justice, health & medicine. Main page allows for searching across all titles and subjects in the collection.

Credo Reference 

Alkek reference source for ideas on keywords and background information. Has images and concept map too. See the tutorial below and more info about Credo Reference below.

Congressional Research Service

Congressional Research Service reports are reports written by a non-partisan think tank for members of Congress.  These are great for getting an overview of somewhat difficult topics.  They also can lead you to fantastic sources of information.  These not freely accessible from the government.  However, luckily there are those out there who have made them available online:

Here are a couple of example CRS reports related to climatology.

Hot Topics & Controversial Issues Databases

The Alkek Library provides access to many databases that give background information on current issues.  These databases are often starting spots for research.  You can use them to get background information and context before you look for more in-depth and peer-reviewed resources. 

You can access these by going to the Research Databases page and choosing Pro/Con Issues & Hot Topics from the dropdown menu under Browse Databases by Type:

Pro Con Databases


Two recommended databases are below.


Climatology Reference Books

You can search for reference books like encyclopedias, dictionaries, and handbooks in our library catalog.  You will find both print and electronic books. Below are a couple of examples.