Scholarly Background Sources

Background sources and scholarly encyclopedias are great for:

  • choosing a topic
  • connecting topics, people, places, events, etc.
  • variant spellings, vocabulary, terminology
  • bibliography

Secondary (and Primary) Books in the Catalog

The library homepage search box searches all library systems--the catalog, articles, and library websites.

Books are bigger and broader and include primary sources and secondary scholarship. Use the catalog to search for books, ebooks, archives and more. Everything but articles!



search boxes


  • Use the search filters under "Limit your results."
  • The advanced search in the library catalog allows for more precision. The drop down menu allows you to search by Author, Title, Keyword, or Subject, or combinations.

How to Find a Book in the Olin Stacks

Secondary Scholarly Articles

Secondary scholarly/peer-reviewed articles are much more specific. Search for them later in your research, not first.

Selected Primary Source Collections in English Online

Get Help: Ask a Librarian

Virginia Cole

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Virginia A. Cole, Ph.D.
106 Olin Library

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Use all the tools!

The best research uses everything, all the tools, and the best tool for the task. But not all tools are equal. Google and Wikipedia have their uses, but when it comes to scholarly research, rely on restricted tools/resources which are superior, have more content, and are free to Cornellians.

Restricted/Subscription/Academic Tools (Free to Cornellians!)

  • Library databases
  • Books/HathiTrust
  • Online & print scholarly encyclopedias
  • Newspaper databases & archives
  • Journals (online & print)

Open to the World Tools

  • Google
  • Wikipedia
  • Google Scholar/Google Books
  • websites

Don't pay for stuff!

decorative dollar bills

Never pay for an article or book or access to resources.

In most cases (except for textbooks), the Cornell Library has online journals, newspapers, magazines, ebooks and print books, or can get them for you at no charge to you! 

Passkey can help you find it at Cornell, or Ask a Librarian.