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BLCK 480: Black Death in the Decade of Black Human Rights

Background Information

Why is background information important in your research process?

Finding background information at the beginning of your research is especially important if you are unfamiliar with the subject area, or not sure from what angle to approach your topic. The types of information that a background search in a specialized reference work can provide include:

  1. Broad overview of the subject
  2. Definitions of the topic 
  3. Introduction to key concepts, which will help you narrow and focus your topic
  4. Names of people who are authorities in the subject field
  5. Major dates and events
  6. Keywords and subject-specific vocabulary terms, which will help with database searching 
  7. Bibliographies that lead to additional resources

How to find background information

Conducting a search on the Omni search tool is a great place to find background information. Use keywords of your topic combined with the type of reference work which you would like to locate, such as encyclopedia, dictionary companion, bibliography, or handbook. 

Example search on the library catalogue:

  • "feminist theory" AND dictionary
  • "racial profiling" AND encyclopedia
Omni Tip: To filter your search to background sources, select Reference Entries under the Resource Type filter, located on the left side of your search results. 


Refer to the Finding Background Information section in the Humanities and Social Sciences guide for more details and suggestions. 

Background Information Resources

Below are some resources to get you started on your topic:

Black Studies Center
Black Studies Center brings together essential historical and current material for researching the past, present and future of African-Americans, the wider African Diaspora, and Africa itself.

Black Thought and Culture
Black Thought and Culture is a collection of non-fiction writings by major American black leaders—teachers, artists, politicians, religious leaders, athletes, war veterans, entertainers, and other figures—covering 250 years of history.

Encyclopedia of African American history, 1896 to the present : from the age of segregation to the twenty-first century
This work traces the transition from the Reconstruction Era to the age of Jim Crow, the Harlem Renaissance, the Civil Rights Movement, and the ascendant influence of African Americans on the American cultural landscape. With coverage up to and including the 2008 election of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States, the Encyclopedia contains approximately 1,200 fully cross-referenced entries

Encyclopedia of Human Rights
Online access to five-volume encyclopedia offering comprehensive coverage of all aspects of human rights theory, practice, law, and history.

Encyclopedia of Race and Crime
The Encyclopedia of Race and Crime covers issues in both historical and contemporary context, with information on race and ethnicity and their impact on crime and the administration of justice

Oxford Bibliographies
Oxford Bibliographies is a tool designed to help researchers find reliable sources of information quickly by directing them to chapter, book, website, archive, or data set selected by experts in the subject. It features a selective list of bibliographic citations supported by direct recommendations about which sources to consult. Includes:

African American Studies
African Studies

Reference Platforms

The following reference platforms are excellent places to start your background information

Oxford Reference Online

Sage Reference Online

Oxford Bibliographies