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SOCI 3432: Sociology of Gender

Resources and research strategies for SOCI 3432

What's a background source? Why would I use one?

A background source provides context information concisely and thoroughly.  Context information includes:

  • overviews of concepts or theories (how/when/why a concept developed & why it matters) 
  • brief or extended definitions
  • lists of key information sources to consult on your topic
  • historical timelines and explanations of events
  • biographical information
  • statistics, trends
  • maps, charts, graphs

Consult background sources:

  • to start developing a thorough and critical understanding of a topic or concept
  • to find keywords to use for searching online library databases and library catalogs for books and articles on your topic
  • to refine your research topic into a research question
  • to learn about the key points of your topic in order to write a paper or develop a presentation
  • to find another angle on a topic, idea, or argument when you get stuck
  • to find authoritative information you can quote
  • to find information on the historical background of a social or political issue
  • to understand current events and issues so that you can develop an argument or take a specific position

Two categories of background sources are:

  • general sources that have a little information about a wide range of subjects

            The New Encyclopaedia Britannica

            Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.)

            Hammond World Atlas

  • subject-specific sources that have in-depth information about a single subject, written by experts in that subject area

           Encyclopedia of Sociology

           A Dictionary of Sociology (e-book)


           Fifty Key Sociologists: the Formative Theorists (e-book)

Two more background sources

In the email I most recently sent to the class list regarding your questions about background sources, I mentioned two more background sources and a search strategy.  See below.

Search strategy

To find more background sources, go to the online library catalog.  Type a simple keyword representing your topic into the search box.  For example, if your topic has to do with race and politics, type in politics.  Next, use the dropdown menu under the keyword box to select Reference.  Click search.

The search results are all reference/background sources about politics.  Some are online, and some are available in the Reference section of the McWherter Library.  Look in the indexes and tables of contents of each for your related terms.

For example, in the Encyclopedia of U.S. Political History, look in the index for words like racism, race, African Americans, Civil Rights Act of 1964, voter discrimination, etc.