Answered By: Woodruff Library Reference
Last Updated: Jul 31, 2015     Views: 123

Doing background research will help you develop a more effective topic as well as brainstorm for better search terms -- and so write a better paper.

  • First and foremost, your professors are a great resource! They understand your assignment and can provide great advice about the topic and how to frame it.
  • Come to the Woodruff Library and talk to a librarian at the Library Service Desk on the 2nd floor, or get research advice from a subject-expert librarian.
  • Look at Research Guides
    There are numerous subject and course-specific guides available. Research guides list important resources where you can get more background or detailed information on specific topics.
  • Consult Encyclopedias, Biographical Dictionaries, Almanacs, etc. 
    Here are a few general recommended ones:


AccessScience Encyclopedia of Science and Technology
Covers all major scientific disciplines

Oxford Reference Online
Contains full text subject encyclopedias, reference works, dictionaries, and handbooks in all disciplines.

Gale Virtual Reference

Biography in Context
Biographies of people from throughout history, around the world, and across all disciplines and subject areas

Credo Reference Unlimited

CQ Researcher
Provides comprehensive background on current issues--legislative activity, historical background, current developments, and a bibliography for further research.

About using the Web for research:

Information on the "free web" can contain good information, but be sure to use criteria to carefully evaluate what you find -- and compare the information with other research resources available via the libraries at Emory University.

Wikipedia: Remember that you do not know who has written a particular Wikipedia entry.  HOWEVER, be sure to scroll down and check the resources cited.  These can be valuable for identifying books, articles, and other sources that can further your research.

This video will show you the best ways to use Wikipedia in research:


Thanks go to the Portland State University Library for sharing their Library DIY idea with us!

Chat with a Reference Librarian:


Call the Library Service Desk at (404) 727-6873.

Text us a question to (404) 994-3366.