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Monmouth College Hewes Library

Background Info

Background Information Sources

How can background information, found in reference resources, help?

  • Provide general information - like a definition or fact
  • Explore context surrounding a topic - the big picture
  • To help focus a topic - explore the subdivisions and perspectives
  • Locate additional sources - in bibliographies 

Types of Sources: Primary, Secondary & Tertiary

Tertiary Source

  • Reference resources (encyclopedias, handbooks and dictionaries) are tertiary sources, which summarize resources and lead the researcher to a primary or secondary source. As a general rule, researchers do not cite tertiary sources in their research, but instead use for informational purposes. 

Primary Source

  • A primary source is an original source that has not been previously published or interpreted by others. Primary sources differ by discipline. For example, a diary is a primary source for historians and a poem is a primary source for a literary researcher.

Secondary Source

  • A secondary source is one step removed from the primary original source and reexamines, interprets and forms conclusions about the information conveyed by the primary source. 

Learn more about different types of sources.

Online Reference Sources

Language and Literature Reference Sources

General Reference Sources (includes some language and literature resources)

Print Reference Sources

Select Literature & Language Print Reference Resources
Located on the main floor of Hewes Library.

  • Dictionary of concepts in literary criticism and theory REF PN 41. H36 1992
  • Dictionary of literary terms REF PN 44.5 S46
  • Princeton encyclopedia of poetry and poetics REF PN 1021 N39 1993
  • Oxford companion to English literature REF PR 19 D73 1985
  • Encyclopedia of the novel REF PN 41 E487 1998
  • Encyclopedia of the essay REF PN 4500 E63 1997
  • Poetry Criticism REF PN 1010 P499
  • Encyclopedia of literary critics and criticism REF PN 75 E53 E53 1999
  • Literature and its times REF PN 50 L574 1997 (cultural, historical context) 
  • World literature and its times REF PN 50 M625 1999  (cultural, historical context)
  • Oxford companion to Irish literature REF PR 8706 O88 1996
  • Nineteenth Century Literary Criticism REF PN 761 N5
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