Get Background Information and Topic Ideas

Use Reference Resources to:

  • Get ideas on a research topic
  • Get background information
  • Explore related concepts
  • Get authoritative and concise information
  • Discover topic pros and cons

Selected resources on this page include contemporary and controversial issues to help you start the research assignment. Each reference database contains unique information. For example, the CQ Researcher provides comprehensive information on a topic while Points of View Reference supports both sides of a controversial issue with multiple types of formats.

Reference Databases

CQ ResearcherProvides in-depth original, comprehensive reporting and analysis on issues in the news. Offers unbiased and authoritative coverage of political, social, and cultural issues, with regular reports on a wide range of topics including: health, international affairs, education, the environment, technology, the U.S. economy, crime, and civil liberties.

Includes background information, chronology, maps, charts, issues, pros/cons, discussion questions, issues, and more.

See: opens new windowCQ Researcher OverView (4:04 mins.) and opens new windowTutorial (2:28 mins.)

Points of View Reference Current, controversial topics with multiple sides supported by articles, primary sources, news briefs, interviews, and more. Browse topics by category or try a basic keyword search. Includes magazines, newspapers, academic journals, radio and TV transcripts, international newspapers, and more.

See: opens new windowTutorial (2:52 mins.)



Credo ReferenceFull text articles in more than 1,100 reference books.
View opens newwindowtitles.

Use Topics to get an overview, definitions, biographies, related topics, images and more. More than 11,000 topics to limit by subject or search. Credo's Mind Map displays a visualization of related topics to your search term.
opens new windowPop Culture Topic Page
opens new windowProCon Pages
opens new windowDNA Replication Animation (0:34mins.)

Credo ReferenceGale topicSpecialized encyclopedias, handbooks and other reference books.
View opens newwindowtitles.

Topic Finder (shown in images), presents two visuals of related, narrower, and broader topics you can use to refine your original search results to the documents also containing that subject or term you select.




Selected Websites

Pros and Cons of Controversial Issues

Objective Analysis and Effective Solutions

Example: opens new windowMining the Moon for Rocket Fuel to Get Us to Mars (Blog post)
Sample MLA citation for the blog post:

Li, Gary, et al. "Mining the Moon for Rocket Fuel to Get Us to Mars." Commentary from The Conversation, 16 Mary 2017. The RAND Blog,

Numbers, Facts and Trends Shaping the World

  • opens new windowUnited States Census Bureau: Index A-Z
    Examples: "opens new windowPayday, Poverty, and Women"
  • opens new windowBLS Reports (Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Dept. of Labor)
    "BLS Reports provide analytical information related to the labor force, consumer spending, earnings, and work injuries and illnesses. Typically, reports contain a few pages of written analysis followed by statistical tables...."
  • opens new windowSpotlight on Statistics (Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Dept. of Labor)
    Each edition of Spotlight on Statistics features graphics, maps, and brief written analysis to illustrate BLS data that examine the U.S. labor market and economy."
  • opens new windowPew Research Center
    A "nonprofit, nonpartisan and nonadvocacy organization." Includes "public opinion polling, demographic research, content analysis and other data-driven social science research." Categories include "U.S. politics and policy; journalism and media; internet, science and technology; religion and public life; Hispanic trends; global attitudes and trends; and U.S. social and demographic trends."
  • opens new windowBarna Trends: Research
    Barna is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization conducting and analyzing primary research to understand cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors since 1984.

Selected Reference Books & Ebooks

Reference books provide background information, facts and information or an overview of a subject. Use the book's table of contents to locate a topic and view related or narrower topics.

To find reference books, search the library catalog and filter results to Reference Collection or browse the book titles in reference databases opens new windowGale Ebooks and opens new windowCredo Reference

Sample Titles:

Book Series - Click a book series title below, then click a book title or the book cover image to view book notes, table of contents and more. Record the call number to find the book on the shelves. Use the catalog "sort" option to put newest titles at the top of the list.

Contemporary World Issuesopens new window Contemporary World Issues

Opposing Viewpointsopens new windowOpposing Viewpoints and
opens new windowOpposing Viewpoints Unnumbered

130+ titles combined. Includes bibliographies and organizations.

Taking Sidesopens new windowTaking Sides (17 titles)
Clashing views on controversial issues.

Selected Journals to Browse

opens new window Journal of Future Studies - The journal mission is to "develop high-quality, futures-oriented research and thinking, based on the evolving knowledge base of Futures Studies / Foresight. Topics include foresight, forecasting, long-range planning, visioning and other related areas."

opens new windowJournal of Religion & Popular Culture - Academic journal covering topics in religion and popular culture.

Academic Videos

Watch a Fun Video - In Living Color
"Why do we associate certain colors with certain things? And do we really see every color of the rainbow or is our world just a 'pigment' of our imagination?.... This is a show about your brain and colors. We're gonna mess with your mind as we put you through a series of games and experiments that will change everything you thought you knew about color." [The video starts at about 2:00mins, so be patient when you begin to watch the video.]