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ESL 147: ESL Term Paper (Lewis): Find Background

 Duquesne University

Duquesne University

Motto: "It is the Spirit Who gives life."

Why Use Reference Works?

Before plunging into research, it is good to know the basics of your topic. Basic information that is both authoritative and reliable can most quickly be found in reference works, like general and specialized dictionaries, encyclopedias, and handbooks. The articles they contain are factual, succinct, and usually objective. Gumberg Library can provide you with many such resources in both electronic and print formats.

Reference works are also helpful when you are trying to narrow your topic for a paper or research project. The factual articles will break the topics down into subtopics, which will show you your choices as far a narrower apects of the topic are concerned. The articles will also introduce you to controversies on the topic,  to the vocabulary you will encounter as you do further research on your topic, and will mention the names of the most important people involved with the topic.

Electronic Reference Collections

Excellent Alternatives to Wikipedia!

Gumberg Library subscribes to a number of collections of electronic reference works. These cover all subject areas, and in most cases, you are able to search all the titles in a collection at once. This means you do not have to have in mind a particular book to search. Some of these collections include hundreds of reference works.

To use them off campus you will need to enter your Multipass information.

Using Wikipedia

Using Wikipedia is an easy and convenient way to begin gaining a basic knowledge of a topic. If you choose to use it, be aware that there are two serious flaws with Wikipedia. The first is that anyone can write articles for it. You do not have to be an expert on a subject. The second is that anyone can edit the articles. Again, you do not have to be an expert on the subject. These two points raise doubts as to the accuracy of what you read there. Because of the problems regarding the authority of the writers of Wikipedia articles, gain what information you can from them, but do not use Wikipedia as a source for academic writing.

Controversial Topics

Many students choose to research and write about topics currently under debate. Below are links to two databases that provide objective information on such topics. Both quote experts on all sides on an issue, and give current statistical data.

To use them off campus you will need to enter your Multipass information.