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The IUPUI University Library building will be closed until further notice. Library services will continue virtually.

Find up-to-date information on new and ongoing virtual library services.


This is a general guide for students of English. Please contact the librarian if you have questions.

Background Information & Books

Before you can start any research on your topic, you must have a background knowledge of it. Books and websites can provide you with that knowledge.

This is important because:

  1. Background sources give you the language that people are using to discuss your topic. You will use this language when you start to search databases for scholarly articles and resources on the topic.
  2. This "pre-research" gives you a sense if your topic is focused enough. If your initial searches bring back so many results you can't even figure out what the language is, then you should consider narrowing your topic.

Remember, background information is always a starting point for research, not an ending point.

English reference sources

Below is a list of reference resources--meaning resources like Wikipedia that you can use to look up quick facts about authors, places, time periods, or literary movements, as well as do some background reading to become more familiar with a topic.  I'm also including the OED and the AP style guide for quick reference on word definitions and grammar usage. 

Be sure to also check the encyclopedia-style databases listed above in the "Background Information" box.