Background Sources

Programs, Experts, and Resources in Middle East Studies permes - Middle East Studies Association

Graduate Programs in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies | US & Canada

Database of Middle East North Africa Social Policy Expertise

SAGE Research Methods: Find resources to answer your research

Purpose of Background Research: Reference Sources Tip

Finding background information is an important part of the research process. Your textbook and encyclopedias are good places to find background knowledge. Please note that the information you gather form these types of sources is considered common knowledge and doesn't count toward your required amount of sources. Reference articles are great places to find information about the context of your paper but should seen as a beginning point of your research, reference materials will help you find more primary and secondary sources by:

  • Learning about topics with which you are unfamiliar
  • Giving you ideas about keywords to search for books and journal articles.
  • Helping broaden or narrow your topic / refining your topic.
  • Identifying important facts related to your topic - keywords, dates, events, history, and names and organizations, etc.
  • Finding additional sources of information through bibliographies and works citedLeads to bibliographies which provide additional sources of information.
  • Specialized Encyclopedias and Dictionaries:  Reference works covering history, culture, politics, linguistics, literature, theater, film, art, architecture, and religion with an emphasis on Islam.
    • Encyclopedias are useful for choosing a topic, educating yourself quickly, understanding various perspectives on a topic, variant spellings, vocabulary, and terminology, and providing bibliographies.

Introduction Guides & General Sources

BrillOnline Reference Works  Middle East and Islamic Studies


Current interest*Spotlight

  •  University systems in the  Arab East by Sari Hanafi.

  • Arab Human Development Report 2016

  • Youth and the Prospects for Human Development in a Changing Reality / Published: New York : United Nations Development Programme, Regional Bureau for Arab States, 2016.
  • 2016 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report - ScholarlyCommons [Top Think Tanks in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA)->Table 13, p. 70]
  • is an active network of researchers and scholars who conduct comparative research on Islam and Muslims in Europe and the USA and disseminate key information to politicians, media, and the public. Sponsored by the Cadbury Centre at the University of Birmingham, the site is recognized in academic, political and media circles as the most reliable online reference for Islam in Europe.

  • Religions of the book - Three world religious traditions have their origins in the Middle East-Judaism, Christianity, and Islam-but there are also a number of more highly localized traditions. These include Zoroastrianism (primarily in Iran); the Druze of Lebanon, Syria, and Israel; and the Kurdish-speaking Yazidi-s of northern Iraq, each with their own traditions of religious identity and practice. [WORLD RELIGIONS -The Middle East and Central Asia: an anthropological approach].

  • Ta'seel Commons "Ta’seel Commons (Ta'seel meaning: “contextualization, to “give an asl (root) to”) is an online platform dedicated to the (re)invigoration of Islamic thought in a (post)modern world.  Ta’seel Commons  is an online space created for disseminating information on contemporary ‘Islams’ place in the modern world.  In creating this space, we seek to impact discourses on and about Islam in the West and in the East, cutting across national and sectarian lines."

  • The Project on Middle East Political Science, POMEPS  is based at the Institute for Middle East Studies at the George Washington University and is supported by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York and a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation for Islam in a Changing Middle East. A collaborative network designed to enhance the broader Middle East’s political science field and its engagement with the broader academic discipline, public policy, and the public sphere.

  • Travel Books Travel books were known as early as the 2nd century through the writings of Pausanias' Description of Greece and many travelers who followed him. The geographical coverage of this travel books collection is mainly the Middle East. The collection covers mid-19th c to around mid-20th c.

Web References * Guides & Aggreagated Online Resources

Contemporary Archive of the Islamic World
The book series Contemporary Archive of the Islamic World offers political and economic reports about the countries of the Islamic world from the mid-1970s until the present-day. The series is an invaluable resource for researchers and is also suitable for classroom use.

Archives in the Middle East

Image result for the Pew Forum

Muslims and Islam

Pew Research Center

Persian books banned in Iran

[Read or download hundreds of books in Persian that are banned in Iran]


  • Bibliotheca Alexandrina [English]   Arabic
  • Knowledge Production Project” by Jadaliyya, “a dynamic, open-access archive, search tool, and data visualization platform. This project, almost a decade in the making, endeavors to collect, catalogue, and and make available for analysis knowledge produced on the Middle East since 1979 in the English language, in eight databases.”
  • Publications of the Biblioteca Alexandrina (the new Library of Alexandria)
  • Jewish Virtual Library- This site on Zionism provides an overview of origins of the modern state of Israel
  • Avalon Project (Middle East 1916-2001) Avalon Project at Yale University
  • The Arabic Papyrology Database "The Arabic Papyrology Database is a tool enabling you to access the editions of Arabic documents written on different material such as papyrus, parchment or paper. Those productive editions are an often unraised treasure for almost every aspect of Islamic history up to the 16th c. A.D. "

  • "The CFR Campus LibGuide highlights a selection of free educational resources about U.S. foreign policy and international affairs from the Council on Foreign Relations. You can link to this LibGuide from your website or copy it to create or supplement your own LibGuides."
  • The Arab League This Backgrounder explains the history and the role of the Arab League, a loose confederation of 22 Arab nations.
  • Crisis Guide: Pakistan This interactive presentation traces Pakistan's evolution and the competing internal and external influences that have contributed to regular upheaval and stunted political and economic development.
  • The Islamic State (ISIS) With Iraq weakened and a civil war raging in Syria, it’s unclear whether local forces and a U.S.-led international coalition can roll back the self-proclaimed Islamic State, explains this Backgrounder.
  • The Sunni-Shia Divide  This InfoGuide explains the religious root of tensions in the region that hinder unity in Arab countries.
  • Syrian Civil War Five Years On Protests in Syria have descended into a civil war, giving rise to Islamic State militants and an outpouring of refugees and defying attempts at resolution.
  •  The Project on Middle East Political Science, POMEPS  is based at the Institute for Middle East Studies at the George Washington University and is supported by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York and a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation for Islam in a Changing Middle East. A collaborative network designed to enhance the broader Middle East’s political science field and its engagement with the broader academic discipline, public policy, and the public sphere.

  • The Time of the Kurds The Kurds are one of the world's largest peoples without a state. Their history is marked by marginalization and persecution.
  • U.S.-Saudi Relations The U.S.-Saudi relationship, long bound by common interests in oil and security, is showing strains over what some analysts see as waning U.S. involvement in the Middle East and a more assertive Saudi foreign policy.
  • Yemen in Crisis  Yemen’s mounting internal divisions and a Saudi military intervention have spawned an escalating political, military, and humanitarian crisis. The upheaval has intensified already high tensions in the Middle East.
  • Kindle Arabic Books. Explore the Kindle Arabic Book Store for Arabic Best Sellers , Hot New Releases, and more.

Digital Humanities * The Middle East-Islam


A Select Bibliography

New Books in Middle Eastern Studies

Essential Readings on Political Islam (by Peter Mandaville)

As befits a topic that is global in scope, increasingly controversial in nature, and the focus of academic inquiry for more than half a century, the literature on political Islam is voluminous. The readings presented here represent some of the most important efforts to study contemporary Islamism using the tools, methodologies, and academic rigor associated with the humanities and social sciences. Though hardly exhaustive, this list will provide the reader with a sense of how the study of political Islam—in major publications either written or available in English—as an object of academic inquiry has evolved over the years.


History of The Islamic Peoples - Carl Brockelmann

  with a review of events, 1939-1947, by Moshe Perlmann ; translated by Joel Carmichael and Moshe Perlmann.


Current trends in Islamist ideology

(Online)  Journal/Periodical Washington, D.C. : Hudson Institute English


Bibliography of the
Arabic Bible: A Classified and Annotated History of Scholarship


English language books in Turkish and Ottoman Studies

Turkology Annual Online "Systematic bibliography for Turkology and Ottoman Studies."


 "Uyghurkitap, an online digital collection of Uyghur documents, is now open to public.
The library contains 6,400 documents, including 500 manuscripts,  1,500 newspapers and magazines, and ~ 4,000 Uyghur language books."


The Palgrave Handbook of Islam in Africa