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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 

Primary, Secondary & Tertiary Sources

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 As a general rule, researchers do not cite tertiary sources in their research, but instead use for informational purposes. 

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. 

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.

Learn more about different types of sources.

Online Reference Sources

Many of the resources below represent resource collections that search more than one reference title at once.

History Reference Volumes

Resources available in the Reference Collection on the main floor of Hewes Library

BROWSE these call number areas to locate reference books:

Call number C = Ancillary Sciences of History (e.g. archaeology )

Call number D = World History (excepting North and South America)

Call number E = Pre-Columbian North America and the United States

Call number F = United States local history, Canada, Central and South America

Hewes Library at Monmouth College | 700 East Broadway, Monmouth, IL 61462 | Phone: 309-457-2190 | Fax: 309-457-2226 | |