Background or "reference" sources are a great place to start your research. Reference works include bibliographies, scholarly encyclopedias, dictionaries, handbooks, and other sources that provide overviews of topics and suggestions for further reading.
A scholarly encyclopedia with informative articles, each one providing a discussion of the literature including primary sources. Just a couple of examples of several potentially helpful articles include:
This is an extensive collection of annotated bibliographies that are keyword searchable and can also be browsed by subject area -- there are several articles (sometimes on the same topic across multiple disciplines) that may provide helpful starting points for your research, often listing both primary and secondary sources. A few examples are:
"Incarceration" (African American Studies module)
"Mass Incarceration in the United States and Its Collateral Consequences" (Sociology module)
"Prison History" (Criminology module)
"Public Health Effects of Incarceration" (Criminology module)
Oxford Handbooks Online
Lengthy chapters in the Oxford Handbooks usually provide helpful overviews of scholarly topics and historical literature, along with suggestions for further reading. A number of the handbooks may be helpful depending on your research topic. Volumes in the series include:
This resource brings together reference articles, along with selected primary and secondary sources for getting started on your research.
Includes scholarly journal articles and monographs as well as reference works. Often a single chapter or two within a reference work can provide a helpful starting point for research. Titles include The Handbook of Law and Society and A Companion to Post-1945 America.
The following bibliographic databases will be helpful for finding secondary sources, especially scholarly/peer-reviewed journal articles, magazine articles, book reviews, and citations to book chapters and edited collections of books. Please note: the full text of articles will not always be available in these databases. If you see the "YaleLinks" icon instead of a PDF, click on the icon to discover whether we have online access to the article: