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Using Information Responsibly: Background Information

A multimedia tutorial that defines academic integrity, citing sources, and plagiarism.

Use reference handbooks, encyclopedias and general information sources to gain a working knowledge on your topic. 


Goal: Learn enough background information to be able to hold a conversation with someone knowledgeable about the topic for at least one minute without repeating yourself.

  1. After choosing a topic, probe a little to make sure it is a topic that fits the requirements and is manageable. 

  2. Then, develop a framework of issues and questions to explore.

This preliminary research will help you identify more keywords. It will also help you better understand scholarly articles with specialized vocabulary.

Reference Sources

Online Reference:

Gale Virtual Reference Library (Gale)

A 24/7 virtual library of reference e-books in virtually any subject, including health, business, careers, history, literature, biography, science and many more, e.g.: Encyclopedia of Survey Research Methods, Encyclopedia of Urban Studies.

Oxford Reference Online: Premium Collection

Oxford Reference Online: Premium Collection provides easily searchable, full text access to more than 100 reference titles from Oxford University Press, including A Dictionary of Sociology, A Supplementary Dictionary of Social Research Methods.

Online Reports:

CQ Researcher (Congressional Quarterly)

Full-length articles include an overview, historical background, chronology, pro/con feature, plus resources for additional research. Graphics, photos and short "sidebar" features round out the reports. Shorter "Hot Topics" articles provide a solid introduction to subjects most in demand by students.


NewsBank consolidates current and archived information from thousands of newspaper titles, as well as newswires, web editions, blogs, videos, broadcast transcripts, business journals, periodicals, government documents and other publications. For reports and topic ideas check  Current Events, Hot Topics and Find a Topic sections.

Common Reference Sources

  • textbooks
  • encyclopedia
  • dictionaries
  • atlases
  • handbooks



OneSearch is a search tool that allows you to search the Library Catalog along with millions of scholarly e-resources all at the same time. The results from a search are ranked, so even though your results are usually numbered in the hundreds of thousands, the best matches are found in the first few pages.


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