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UGS 303: Stories from the Muslim West (Azam)

Background Information and Newspapers

Why Should I Start Here?

It can be tempting to just dive into your research with scholarly articles. However, you might gain a better understanding of your topic if you begin with these more accessible sources for background information. 

  • Encyclopedias are wonderful sources for facts and general overviews. They should *not* be your only sources of information, but knowing the factual background of your topic will help you understand interpretations presented in academic materials.
  • A dictionary can be your best friend! Or maybe not really. But it can be a vital part of your research. Make good use of the OED!
  • Newspapers and magazines can provide cutting edge coverage of current events because they are published more quickly than academic articles. Over time, they transition into historical records of how different events were perceived by journalists and the general public. The newspapers and magazines in our databases represent a broad spectrum of political and cultural beliefs; read widely and critically.

Encyclopedias and Dictionaries

Newspapers, Magazines, and Film


In high school you were probably told to never ever use Wikipedia for class research because anyone can edit it. Well, college is about breaking rules. You *can* use Wikipedia for research. However:

  • If you find something interesting, make sure to verify it with a refereed source.
  • Make sure to ask your professor before you *cite* Wikipedia as a source. They will probably tell you no.

Wikipedia is most useful for:

  • Engaging your curiosity about a subject by giving you background information and demonstrating the different directions in which your research could go.
  • Introducing you to keywords and vocabulary that will lead you to "better" sources via library databases.
  • Giving you a quick start with finding references. Look at the bottom of the page! There are almost always references there, many of which are of a caliber that you could use and cite in your paper!

So: Use Wikipedia wisely. It is a place to start your research. It should not be where your research ends.

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