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 of potentially great use in the early stages of your research project. Each article has a discussion of the literature, including primary sources. A great starting point for finding more sources; arranged into subject areas such as Political History. Just a few examples of several potentially helpful articles are:
This resource brings together reference articles, along with selected primary and secondary sources for getting started on your research.
This is an extensive collection of annotated bibliographies that are keyword searchable and can also be browsed by subject area -
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:
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 A Companion to the Gilded Age and Progressive Era 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:
Chris Anderson, Special Collections Librarian, Yale Divinity Library - email@example.com
Josh Cochran, Archivist for American Diplomacy, Manuscripts and Archives, Sterling Memorial Library - firstname.lastname@example.org
James Kessenides, Kaplanoff Librarian for American History - email@example.com
Bill Landis, Associate Director for Public Services, Manuscripts and Archives, Sterling Memorial Library - firstname.lastname@example.org