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Distance Learning Library Services: Finding Background Information

This guide is intended to help students who are taking classes at a regional campus and/or online to more easily access library resources and services.

Finding Background Information

The next step in the research process is to find background information. Background information will teach you a little more about your topic and help you decide where you want to focus your research.

Encyclopedias and other reference materials are great sources of background information.  You can use them to discover definitions, general trends, subtopics, and other items of interest about the broad idea you've chosen.

IUP Libraries provides access to many encyclopedias online through these databases:

You can also use Wikipedia.  Surprised to see that listed here?  Wikipedia is a really good example of a reference source: a place you go when you want to see what something is.  Just like many other encyclopedias, it can give you a basic overview, related topics, and even a brief history of your subject. However, because pages can be edited by anyone, there's a risk that the information is completely wrong.  And you should never cite it in your work.  So feel free to use it, but make sure you use it wisely.

Reference Section of Your Library

Don't forget about the print reference section of your library!  

Each library location has a section of print reference materials - encyclopedias, dictionaries, handbooks, etc. - that are not available online.  Don't miss out on these great resources!  

Need help finding the reference collection and figuring out which titles to use?  Ask a Librarian!

Get Help

Or call:

Indiana Campus Library: Reference Desk
724-357-3006 or 1-866-836-8815

Punxsutawney Campus Library
814-938-4870 

Northpointe Campus Library
724-294-3300

How to Use Wikipedia

How to Use Credo Reference