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Library resources and research tips for ENGL 101 students

Finding Background Information

Scholarly articles are not the most reader-friendly way to find background information. Use these databases to find reliable background info on your topic.

Remember: These are reference sources. These will not count as scholarly sources in your papers.  Use these to help you narrow down your topic before searching for scholarly literature.

Pro tip: Search for your topic in the Keyword search bar or click on "Browse Topics" to explore reports by category. Check out the Bibliography of your report to find potential sources for your paper.

Pro tip: Use this to find background information as well as popular articles (newspapers, magazines, websites, etc.). This database does link to some scholarly articles, but keep an eye out for book reviews. Book reviews, while published in scholarly journals, are not scholarly research, so don't cite them in your papers. If you like the information in the review, look for the book in the library! It may be helpful for your research.

Pro tip: Struggling with way to define terms or concepts in your research? Use this database to search a wide variety of dictionaries and encyclopedias all at once.

What About Wikipedia?

Can I use Wikipedia for my ENGL 101 paper?

Wikipedia has great information about a lot of different topics. While this is an excellent source to use in your everyday life, Wikipedia should not be cited in your research. Why you ask...

  • You don't typically cite reference sources. Just like you wouldn't cite a dictionary or an encyclopedia, you wouldn't cite Wikipedia in your work.
  • It is difficult to verify the author's credibility. Anyone can edit and access Wikipedia, which is great! However, it makes it more difficult to verify the people who are providing the information on Wikipedia. Since we can't verify the author's authority on a subject, it is best to not cite Wikipedia in your research.

If I can't cite it, what can I use it for?

Great question! I would use Wikipedia in the following ways:

  • To get your bearings on a topic. If you're just starting out, Wikipedia is a great way to learn more about a topic, without diving straight into the scholarly literature, which can be difficult to read. Just make sure to verify any information that you want to use through other sources.
  • Use the Works Cited to identify additional sources. You may not be able to cite Wikipedia, but look for the sources that the author(s) used. Some of these might be appropriate to pull into your paper. Remember, you need to evaluate each and every source for credibility if you want to use it for your research.